Join 3,418 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Collective bargaining in Michigan?
December 11, 2012 4:01 PM   Subscribe

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed into law two bills that will "will among other things, bar both public and private sector workers from being required to pay fees as a condition of their employment." [SLNYT]

Michigan is only the second state in a decade to pass such legislation. The legislation is especially unexpected after labor leaders tried to pass a constitutional amendment enshrining the right to collective bargaining in last month's election.
posted by dd42 (235 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Another lap completed in the race to the bottom.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:04 PM on December 11, 2012 [22 favorites]


The legislation passed BECAUSE labor leaders reached too far and got soundly defeated, so Republicans acted like they had a mandate. I'm not generally considered a close friend of labor, but the way the legislators went about this was really crappy, and is likely to result in the Democrats sweeping the next election.
posted by dpx.mfx at 4:06 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The legislation is especially unexpected after labor leaders tried to pass a constitutional amendment enshrining the right to collective bargaining in last month's election.

Unexpected? In what universe? It's a Republican Governor and a Republican-majority legislature. Anyone who's been paying attention could see this coming a mile away, simply by looking at other states with similar political numbers. An anti-labor bill in the traditional heart of unionized labor is like Viagra to Republicans.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:07 PM on December 11, 2012 [16 favorites]


My only comfort is that law, being provisional, can change; but minds have to change before the law can do likewise.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:07 PM on December 11, 2012


Isn't more choice good?
posted by asra at 4:10 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Frankly at this point I'm not so sure about the big union conglomerates, and I'm starting to wonder if "collective bargaining" and things like required union dues are really necessary for unions to be functional or even powerful. Wasn't the point of unions that actual workers have the power by virtue of them being the ones who do the work to stand up and fight for their own rights? Why is some legally required union due a necessary part of that? I'm open to being convinced either way.
posted by koeselitz at 4:12 PM on December 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


: " I'm starting to wonder if "collective bargaining" and things like required union dues are really necessary for unions to be functional or even powerful. "

Let's compare this to a functioning goverment. How long would our country exist as a coherent entity if a law were passed making all payment of taxes voluntary?
posted by mullingitover at 4:17 PM on December 11, 2012 [73 favorites]


I actually have family in Michigan, and they're exactly the type of socially conservative blue-collar people who made this happen. They got sucked into the anti-Obama froth and completely forgot about voting in their economic interests. I hope that Michigan shows demonstrably lower wages as a result of this, so people don't forget that elections have consequences, among them a lower standard of living (if that's even possible in MI anymore).
posted by mullingitover at 4:20 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why is some legally required union due a necessary part of that? I'm open to being convinced either way.

Well a couple of ideas here are that 1) without compulsory membership, management is free to divide and conquer through reward or threat, and 2) that not requiring membership encourages free riding, that is, why pay if someone else will go to the trouble for you?

Management naturally speaks with one voice, because as a corporation (usually), it effectively is one person. Collective bargaining, and striking, are how workers speak with one voice.
posted by facetious at 4:20 PM on December 11, 2012 [36 favorites]


Let's compare this to a functioning goverment. How long would our country exist as a coherent entity if a law were passed making all payment of taxes voluntary?

In your hypothetical, does someone who chooses not to pay taxes get to use public services, facilities, roads, etc?
posted by The World Famous at 4:21 PM on December 11, 2012


Why is some legally required union due a necessary part of that? I'm open to being convinced either way.
posted by koeselitz at 4:12 PM on December 11


Because this isn't the days of the Wagner Act. Corporations have locked horns with labor unions in an escalating war of attrition. It's not just about work stoppage, unions need experienced government palm-greasers. It's a new, unfortunate age but the age we have, nonetheless.
posted by basicchannel at 4:21 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


: "Let's compare this to a functioning goverment. How long would our country exist as a coherent entity if a law were passed making all payment of taxes voluntary?

In your hypothetical, does someone who chooses not to pay taxes get to use public services, facilities, roads, etc?
"

Yes, just like non dues-paying employees will now get to freeload on the efforts of union members.
posted by mullingitover at 4:22 PM on December 11, 2012 [13 favorites]


In your hypothetical, does someone who chooses not to pay taxes get to use public services, facilities, roads, etc?

Yes because all workers, represented or not, enjoy the benefits of labor unions. Think about that on your weekends off.
posted by basicchannel at 4:23 PM on December 11, 2012 [87 favorites]


If a corporation can be considered a legal person, why can't a union? Any way to pull some Citizens United judo here?
posted by scelerat at 4:23 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Koeselitz, in theory, you're right. I used to work for a law firm that dealt with a large company that had an independent union - one made up of only employees from that company. They paid very little in dues - but they did have to pay some. There are costs associated with administering a CBA - for instance, if an employee gets fired, and the union grieves the termination, and it gets taken to arbitration, someone has to fight that arbitration. Usually that's a lawyer on both sides. I've seen it done without lawyers, but as there are fewer and fewer unions, I feel like that happens less and less, because it's harder to get the experience you need to argue to an arbitrator. Even if it is a non-union advocate, it's usually someone who works for the union full time.

The problem is that most unions are part of some larger organization - the UAW, the Teamsters, whatever. Those groups have employees that work only for them. Lots of them. And lots of lawyers.

It's easy to say that the RTW legislation creates more choices. The problem is people are fickle. So they'll vote that of course they want the union. Say the union gets voted into a company with 60% of the vote. Right now, the other 40% can not "join" the union if they don't want, but they may still be required to pay fees associated with negotiating and administering the contract (the argument being that they are going to reap the benefits of those things), while declining to pay for other things (like the union's political activities). (There's lots of debate about whether or not things here get split up properly, but that's the theory). With RTW legislation, no one can be required to pay dues/fees. So even if the Union got voted in by the majority, the employees might not pay. Even the people who voted for it might not pay. Classic free rider problem - everyone wants the benefits; no one wants to pay for the benefits; what's the Union to do? Raise the dues on the people who pay? that'll piss them off. Stop providing benefits? then what's the point of having a union in the first place?

So it's for sure a blow to the unions. Whether they can regroup under some more organized, old-school independent type scheme will be interesting. There's lots of entrenched thinking all around that'll have to get undone.
posted by dpx.mfx at 4:26 PM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm starting to wonder if "collective bargaining" and things like required union dues are really necessary for unions to be functional or even powerful.

If they weren't really necessary for unions to be functional or even powerful, then unions wouldn't have steadily lost power in lockstep with their demise. And management wouldn't be frothing at the bit to kill them.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:30 PM on December 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


Ezra Klein said it best: It's right to not-pay-union-dues, or right-to-free-ride.
posted by andreaazure at 4:31 PM on December 11, 2012


Yes, just like non dues-paying employees will now get to freeload on the efforts of union members.

They will not be able to freeload on every benefit of the union, will they? There are already many employers who have both union and non-union positions, and non-union employees do not necessarily have the benefits of union membership. I can imagine a few things that would very tangentially trickle over from the union to non-union employees. But the vast majority of the benefits the union provides apply specifically and exclusive to members of the union or to employees who, though they are not union members, are nevertheless included in various CBA provisions.
posted by The World Famous at 4:32 PM on December 11, 2012


Yes because all workers, represented or not, enjoy the benefits of labor unions. Think about that on your weekends off.

And you don't trust the workers enough to know/do the right thing and join the unions then?
posted by asra at 4:32 PM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Matt Yglesias, on Twitter, linked to this piece and called it a "wise libertarian argument" against RTW laws. I think it goes off the deep end about halfway through, but it makes an excellent basic point: Why should the government be allowed to tell a company what kind of agreements it can or cannot make with a union?
posted by Bromius at 4:33 PM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]



Fundementally, unions should not exist. I mean, the worker protections and so on that they offer should be paid for by taxes, be administered by the government, and apply to all workers everywhere.

Unions are at best an imperfect solution to the problems that workers have, and at worst straight up detrimental.

This is a sad day for Michigan, and it is unfortunate that it came to this. However, I could cite example after example of how and why the Unions have managed to screw themselves.

Lest you think I am anti-union, check my history
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:34 PM on December 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yes because all workers, represented or not, enjoy the benefits of labor unions. Think about that on your weekends off.

I do not have weekends off.
posted by The World Famous at 4:35 PM on December 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


for instance, if an employee gets fired, and the union grieves the termination, and it gets taken to arbitration, someone has to fight that arbitration....

Are things like this the main costs of running a union?

....Classic free rider problem - everyone wants the benefits; no one wants to pay for the benefits; what's the Union to do? Raise the dues on the people who pay? that'll piss them off. Stop providing benefits? then what's the point of having a union in the first place?

Is there anything that prevents them from denying benefits, like representation when "grieving a termination," to employees who don't pay dues?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 4:37 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is there anything that prevents them from denying benefits, like representation when "grieving a termination," to employees who don't pay dues?

No. That's the entire point of this legislation.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:39 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why should the government be allowed to tell a company what kind of agreements it can or cannot make with a union?

Why should government tell business where to dump toxic waste ?

Why should government tell business not to employ 10 year olds ?

Why should government tell business to pay taxes ?

Without being overly snarky - that is an excellent question if you are 12.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:40 PM on December 11, 2012 [40 favorites]


Pogo_Fuzzybutt, I believe it was intended as an illustration of a libertarian argument against this statute. Libertarian arguments are, as you've noticed, usually idiotic. Nevertheless, there are many idiots in these fine United States, and they often vote. So convincing them to support a noble cause - even if for stupid reasons - can have some limited political benefits (which are often outweighed once a cause becomes associated with dumb arguments and idiotic blocs of voters).
posted by The World Famous at 4:43 PM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


: "And you don't trust the workers enough to know/do the right thing and join the unions then?
"

[back in my hypothetical 'all taxes are voluntary! hooray libertarian paradise!']
And you don't trust the citizens to know/do the right thing and pay their voluntary taxes then?
posted by mullingitover at 4:48 PM on December 11, 2012


And you don't trust the workers enough to know/do the right thing and join the unions then?

This is the prisoners' dilemma. Crossed with the tragedy of the commons. The economically rational thing for any one individual to do is to free-ride. Except if everyone does it.
posted by GuyZero at 4:49 PM on December 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


I do not have weekends off.
posted by The World Famous at 4:35 PM on December 11 [1 favorite +] [!]


Aww yea you're right. Well hopefully the improved workplace safety laws, 40-hour work week and advances for women and minorities in the workplace mean something to you?
posted by basicchannel at 4:49 PM on December 11, 2012 [16 favorites]


Fundementally, unions should not exist. I mean, the worker protections and so on that they offer should be paid for by taxes, be administered by the government, and apply to all workers everywhere.

This is tantamount to the government setting private-sector wages and I think that's going a bit far.
posted by GuyZero at 4:50 PM on December 11, 2012


Let's compare this to a functioning goverment. How long would our country exist as a coherent entity if a law were passed making all payment of taxes voluntary?

Let's not compare this to a government, because it was never supposed to be like a government. You were never supposed to be born into a union, or mandatorily part of a union. The point of a union is that people were banding together to work together towards a common goal. If people don't want to pay union dues - if union dues are not mandatory - then they don't want to be part of a union. And if they don't want to be part of a union, how can a union represent them, and why should they?

Unions are pissed off about this because unions hate scabs. Unions hate people who are willing to work for the bosses on nonunion terms. But that doesn't mean it's wrong.
posted by corb at 4:52 PM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


.

For all the Michigan workers who starved, were shot at, and beaten by thugs, in order to bring in unions.

At least my gramps (proud member of the 1941 Ford strike at River Rouge) died earlier this year, so Snyder can now power Michigan's economy from the power of Grandpa Holyrood spinning in his grave.
posted by holyrood at 4:52 PM on December 11, 2012 [33 favorites]


I do not have weekends off.

You should take that up with your union. I pointed this out the last time you made a cynical, smart ass remark about the social benefits of unions. But you'd rather just sit there being reamed by management.
posted by Talez at 4:53 PM on December 11, 2012 [49 favorites]


I do not have weekends off.

And you're proud of that?
posted by steamynachos at 4:55 PM on December 11, 2012 [44 favorites]


I got a summer job in a grocery store when I was a kid. They took union dues directly out of my paycheck. Because the union didn't do much for new employees this caused me to make less than minimum wage.

Unions are often aligned with my left leaning politics, and I do wish they were stronger, but they also do things that I don't like at all.
posted by poe at 4:56 PM on December 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Without being overly snarky - that is an excellent question if you are 12.

You are being overly snarky. I don't really know what Bromius is getting at, but why try to stifle converstation like this? Instead, why not just close this tab and find another thread?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:56 PM on December 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


Looking at the libertarian article quoted above,
If right-to-work laws were really about individual freedom, they would simply allow unions to represent voluntary dues-paying members only while respecting employers’ right to recognize or not recognize unions. In other words, the laws would permit states to opt out of federal labor law entirely—and nothing more. But these laws do much more, perhaps because allowing this kind of flexibility and variety would undermine the interests of politically influential employers by unshackling upstart competitors.
there is certainly a fair argument against right-to-work laws. But I don't think anyone is considering dismantling the National Labor Relations Act that currently forces employers to negotiate with unions. Anyone bemoaning the loss of freedom for employers to make contracts with union employees should also bemoan the loss of freedom for employers NOT to make contracts with union employees.
posted by corb at 4:57 PM on December 11, 2012


Unions are often aligned with my left leaning politics, and I do wish they were stronger, but they also do things that I don't like at all.

It's basically insurance against abuse by management. Like disability insurance, social security and old-fashioned life insurance, the vast majority of people who pay it never use it. Especially so for young people who tend to not be disabled, not get sick and rarely get abused by managers.

Until, of course, that changes.
posted by GuyZero at 5:01 PM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd just like to point out that the Republicans did this now because they won't have the votes to do it next month. This was rushed through legislation specifically amended so that the public can't vote on it next year. The people who've been putting the pressure on the GOP to get this done before they lose power are the usually array of Koch funded suspects.

So, yeah, lame duck legislation rushed through not because they feel like they have a mandate, but because they know they are going to lose the ability to fuck this shit up for working people as of January. "Fuck you guys for not voting for Romney. This is what you get. If only you'd voted him into office (and re-elected us for next term) we wouldn't have to punish you like this."

But, of course, we would have done this anyways because we are cartoon movie villains and can't help ourselves.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:01 PM on December 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


corb: "Let's not compare this to a government, because it was never supposed to be like a government."

Good job, let's just drag my free rider metaphor way the hell out of context.

It's simple: if you don't like the union, find a different shop that's not unionized. What's the problem?
posted by mullingitover at 5:01 PM on December 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


Ezra Klein said it best: It's right to not-pay-union-dues, or right-to-free-ride.

No. The best way to accurately describe it is "right-to-work-for-less".
posted by Talez at 5:02 PM on December 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


Why would a *true* free-market-type be against unions? Isn't the purest, platonic ideal of a free market about symmetric information and exchanges between equals? Well business has all the jobs, and can act as a single entity. Why should not a single entity have all the labor and act as a single entity?

Do not pretend business wants truly free markets.
posted by notsnot at 5:03 PM on December 11, 2012 [23 favorites]


But I don't think anyone is considering dismantling the National Labor Relations Act that currently forces employers to negotiate with unions.

Um...Employers are not required to negotiate with unions unless a majority of their labor force first votes a union in to represent them. A union can't just show-up one day unbidden and say "negotiate with us".
posted by Thorzdad at 5:03 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anyone bemoaning the loss of freedom for employers to make contracts with union employees should also bemoan the loss of freedom for employers NOT to make contracts with union employees.

This is the same old freedom-to-contract argument from the beginning of last century. The same argument that justified twelve-year-olds in factories and six-day workweeks.

The supposition that management and labor come to the table from the beginning as equals is just wrong.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:04 PM on December 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


The best way to accurately describe it is "right-to-work-for-less".

Or "right-to-work-a-man-to-death".
posted by asterix at 5:05 PM on December 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I mean – maybe to reframe my question above in a slightly different way:

In many of the ways that matter, unions have failed in this country. I appreciate that it's probably best for unions not to give ground in any way, but really what's happening here doesn't actually matter to the 88% of workers in the US who aren't part of a union (nearly none of which actually have the option anyway.)

How can this be fixed? Collective bargaining? If that's what'll do it, I think it's worth doing, but at this point I guess I'm just skeptical. Maybe we need to lay out a road map for (say) 34% union membership in the United States. (That's the peak union membership, from back in the 50s.) What would it take to get there?
posted by koeselitz at 5:05 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Joey, I didn't mean that the Republicans felt they had a mandate on everything; I meant they felt they had a mandate on the labor issues because prop 2 was defeated by such a wide margin. I mean, that's how I read Snyder's jump from "it's not part of the agenda" to signing the legislation in under a month. But I guess you're right - it didn't matter to them, since they wouldn't have the votes later.

Either way, I fight with unions all day long as part of my job. I'm not necessarily opposed to RTW legislation - I haven't really worked it all the way out in my mind - but I still think this was a crappy way to go about making law.
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:05 PM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


They will not be able to freeload on every benefit of the union, will they? There are already many employers who have both union and non-union positions, and non-union employees do not necessarily have the benefits of union membership.

I don't know about other places, but at my public workplace, in Michigan, there are some employees who choose not to join the union. They don't pay union dues, but are required to pay "fees" that are maybe a bit less (?).

They're not union members and don't get a vote. When we go on strike, they prance their scabby asses* right through the picket line and go to work, and then when the strike is done and there's a new contract, they get exactly the same terms of employment the rest of us do. So I guess now they'll just get all that for free.

* I actually don't bear them any ill will as people, but it rankles a little bit to stand there with your sign and blisters and see that crap.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:07 PM on December 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


How can this be fixed? Collective bargaining? If that's what'll do it, I think it's worth doing, but at this point I guess I'm just skeptical. Maybe we need to lay out a road map for (say) 34% union membership in the United States. (That's the peak union membership, from back in the 50s.) What would it take to get there?

In no particular order:

Awareness.
Protests.
Establishment vs Proles.
A few deaths on the side of the establishment.
An order of magntiude or two more from the proles.
Industrial turmoil.
posted by Talez at 5:09 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find it interesting that republicans won't raise taxes, but they're happy to pursue a policy that's been found to reduce wages by 3.2%[sorry, pdf] statewide. And that's for all workers, not just union members.
posted by mullingitover at 5:09 PM on December 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


Frankly at this point I'm not so sure about the big union conglomerates, and I'm starting to wonder if "collective bargaining" and things like required union dues are really necessary for unions to be functional or even powerful.

Unions are essentially a non-entity in so-called "right to work" states. Without collective bargaining, the union is a PAC.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 5:11 PM on December 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


In many of the ways that matter, unions have failed in this country.

In many of the ways that matter, the anti-union forces that are in control of a large number of state legislatures these days have combined in a concerted push to do everything in their power -- including using model legislation crafted by the likes of the American Legislative Exchange Council* -- to make sure that unions fail. There's a big difference, and comments like this leave out that context and make it out that the only actors in the equation are the imbecilic, fossilized unions.

* The Michigan legislation that just passed was a verbatim version of a model bill from ALEC.
posted by blucevalo at 5:12 PM on December 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


How long would our country exist as a coherent entity if a law were passed making all payment of taxes voluntary?

1) Does the Government follow law?
2) What would be the new name for what was taxes? User fee?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:13 PM on December 11, 2012


So the data show that this will reduce wages and ultimately increase demands for social services. More likely than not Michigan will continue to take more from the Federal government than the taxes it spends. The vast majority of states that are RTW states do. The vast majority of states that pay more to the federal government than they take are not RTW states.

So here's a proposal. If Michigan wants to impoverish itself and screw its own workers for the benefit of the DeVos familiy - that's on them. And them alone.

Let's have a federal law that any RTW state must choose between paying a double federal corporate tax rate or must choose to have higher federal capital gains taxes. More choices are good. Why are you against choices?
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:13 PM on December 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


If they take too much, there will nothing to lose.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 5:16 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


//I find it interesting that republicans won't raise taxes, but they're happy to pursue a policy that's been found to reduce wages by 3.2%[sorry, pdf] statewide. And that's for all workers, not just union members.//

Why is that interesting? Both policies benefit the ownership class that funds the Republican Party. Their wages aren't going down. However their profits just went up.
posted by COD at 5:16 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find it interesting that republicans won't raise taxes, but they're happy to pursue a policy that's been found to reduce wages by 3.2%[sorry, pdf] statewide. And that's for all workers, not just union members.

For the same reason they will happily close off deductions but not give any ground on points. This isn't about helping the common man. This is about enabling the systematic looting of any wealth left in the system that's been going on since Reagan times.
posted by Talez at 5:17 PM on December 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


: "How long would our country exist as a coherent entity if a law were passed making all payment of taxes voluntary?

1) Does the Government follow law?
2) What would be the new name for what was taxes? User fee?
"

1) For as long as it has money to pay the people that enforce the law
2) For purposes of honesty, let's call them 'Taxes nobody will pay'
posted by mullingitover at 5:19 PM on December 11, 2012


Which side are you on?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:19 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


In theory, an entirely voluntary union structure would be good; ultimately I'd rather that the unions be more like the IWW than the SEIU. But at this point Right to Work legislation is a direct attack on the ability of unions to fund themselves so they can continue to exist.

Unions have failed in important ways. Too often they are led by self-interested bureaucrats. But the unions have always buoyed up wages and conditions in the working class, damn it, and we need to get the tide moving the other way. We need organizations in order to fight back and get a WORKING class - not a "middle" class - that has more employment, better wages, better hours, better conditions. The ruling class has demonized it and people have bought that hook, line and sinker. Unions will only get better in an environment when people have the experience of fighting for a better life for themselves and their children.
posted by graymouser at 5:21 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Unions have failed in important ways. Too often they are led by self-interested bureaucrats. But the unions have always buoyed up wages and conditions in the working class, damn it, and we need to get the tide moving the other way. We need organizations in order to fight back and get a WORKING class - not a "middle" class - that has more employment, better wages, better hours, better conditions. The ruling class has demonized it and people have bought that hook, line and sinker. Unions will only get better in an environment when people have the experience of fighting for a better life for themselves and their children.

So the ruling class has absolutely demonized the entire concept of organized labour and the first words are "unions have failed". A sweeping generalization straight from the playbook of the ruling class.

This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by Talez at 5:24 PM on December 11, 2012 [26 favorites]


I appreciate that it's probably best for unions not to give ground in any way, but really what's happening here doesn't actually matter to the 88% of workers in the US who aren't part of a union.

Every watched the way a pot of boiling crabs will drag back in any crab trying to escape.
posted by JackFlash at 5:26 PM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


So the ruling class has absolutely demonized the entire concept of organized labour and the first words are "unions have failed". A sweeping generalization straight from the playbook of the ruling class.

This is why we can't have nice things.


You can if you're a member of the ruling class.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:27 PM on December 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm ok with this.

Attaching it to a spending bill to make it referendum proof is just dirty pool, though.
posted by madajb at 5:30 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unions have failed in important ways. Too often they are led by self-interested bureaucrats.

Unlike corporate leaders or elected government officials? Unions aren't any more corrupt than the world at large which is unfortunately pretty corrupt.
posted by GuyZero at 5:33 PM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Note that many of these right-to-work states also have so-called "paycheck protection" laws that require unions to get annual written permission from every union member before then can spend one dollar on political activities. If the same rules applied to corporations with regard to shareholders, that would be the end of Citizens United. There's nothing "free market" about this. It's pure class warfare politics.
posted by JackFlash at 5:33 PM on December 11, 2012 [45 favorites]


You should take that up with your union. I pointed this out the last time you made a cynical, smart ass remark about the social benefits of unions. But you'd rather just sit there being reamed by management.

When was that? I don't recall ever having made any such comment. I'm generally strongly in favor of unions, both philosophically and pragmatically. Can you point to the specific exchange you're thinking of?

Aww yea you're right. Well hopefully the improved workplace safety laws, 40-hour work week and advances for women and minorities in the workplace mean something to you?

They all mean something to me, yes. But I think you missed the point, and I see no reason to argue about it.

And you're proud of that?

Not at all. Why would I be? You seem to have completely missed the point, as well, which was that non-union employees do not reap all the benefits of unions by freeloading.

They're not union members and don't get a vote. When we go on strike, they prance their scabby asses* right through the picket line and go to work, and then when the strike is done and there's a new contract, they get exactly the same terms of employment the rest of us do. So I guess now they'll just get all that for free.

Then your union is doing a crappy job of negotiating CBAs for its members, if it's not expressly including provisions that give favorable terms to union members over non-union employees. You should be complaining to your union and threatening to stop paying dues unless they can show that they are serving their members better than their non-members.

Let me be clear: I am 100% opposed to Michigan's new law. And I am well aware of the important labor reforms that have been driven by unions in this country. But the fact is that plenty of employers already have both union and non-union employees, and non-union employees do not, as a rule, reap all the benefits of union membership by riding free on those coattails.
posted by The World Famous at 5:34 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


When was that? I don't recall ever having made any such comment. I'm generally strongly in favor of unions, both philosophically and pragmatically. Can you point to the specific exchange you're thinking of?

My mistake. It was someone with a similar remark in the Labor Day thread and the usernames got mixed up.

My apologies.
posted by Talez at 5:36 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Unions need to be as globalized as corporations. I have no idea how they are gonna get there.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:38 PM on December 11, 2012


No worries, Talez. I was getting ready to start singing Billy Bragg songs here to convince you that I'm not who you thought I was.
posted by The World Famous at 5:39 PM on December 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


The World Famous: "Yes because all workers, represented or not, enjoy the benefits of labor unions. Think about that on your weekends off.

I do not have weekends off.
"

OH HAI MOM!

(Technically, hers was "I don't have an 8 hour day" --- same old tired rehashed "fuck you I don't get mine, so you can't have yours" argument of fellow proletariat... and you wonder why capital is making money hand over fist for over 30 years and we see none of it.)
posted by symbioid at 5:43 PM on December 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


that's not what I was saying at all, but whatever.
posted by The World Famous at 5:45 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The only good news is that hopefully it will get the Democratic party fired up and ensure that he's a 1 term governor.

What a fucking joke.
posted by kbanas at 5:46 PM on December 11, 2012


The fucking joke is that this is exactly the disaster they should have expected when they elected Zack Snyder.

/whistles through the graveyard
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:50 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


More likely than not Michigan will continue to take more from the Federal government than the taxes it spends.

no, it actually loses money to the feds

----

Unions have failed in important ways.

the most important failure being their failure to continue pushing for union membership for ALL workers

it's historical fact - they did not get the job done

i'm absolutely disgusted with our legislature over this - yes, attaching an appropriation to the bill to forestall a referendum is dirty pool - but the dirtiest trick was waiting until after the election to do it

i don't recall many of the republicans overtly saying that this was what they were going to do

but then, the leader of the republican house actually helped arrange not only for a conservative democrat to switch parties, which is legit, but then got some street bum to stand as a democrat to ward off challengers and make it look like there would be a contest of sorts

and he's still the leader

these bastards have no morals and no real interest in representing the people honestly
posted by pyramid termite at 5:50 PM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


If a corporation can be considered a legal person, why can't a union? Any way to pull some Citizens United judo here?


Not to derail, but there's no judo required in terms of campaign finance. After Citizens United, unions were able to spend directly from their coffers instead of just from segregated PACs. It's a comparatively smaller counterweight to the vast corporate money flood that opened up, but it has helped lefty causes somewhat. Still a net loss, though.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 5:51 PM on December 11, 2012


The fucking joke is that this is exactly the disaster they should have expected when they elected Zack Snyder.

no, this is exactly the disaster they should have expected when they elected a lakeview high school graduate

i'm from battle creek, i know
posted by pyramid termite at 5:52 PM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes because all workers, represented or not, enjoy the benefits of labor unions. Think about that on your weekends off.

I do not have weekends off.


Says management.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:57 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


no, it actually loses money to the feds

In 2005 this was true. In 2010 it was at $1.21.
posted by Talez at 5:57 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


With our global economy and "free market" trade agreements and wheeling/dealing labor is bound to lose.

The American worker is worth no more than the least paid employee in, lets say a garment factory in India with no exits.

The reverse side of this coin turns Henry Ford's quote on it's head " I pay my employees this much so they can afford to buy the product they make." ( i know not a direct quote, call me lazy).

The U.S. economy is a corpse with corporate interests sucking any value out of the fast drying husk.

You? You will be left, if you're young enough, looking at increasingly poisoned land, water, and air. Food products of dubious nutritional value, if any at all. Infrastructure disintegrating or failing outright.

Wait we are already there!

Load up your guns call your friends.
posted by Max Power at 5:58 PM on December 11, 2012


Koch Brothers and ALEC behind Right To Freeload Law.

(Word from a connected source is that Koch bros. promised to primary out the Speaker if he didn't move this through the lame duck.)
posted by klangklangston at 5:59 PM on December 11, 2012


The World Famous: You should be complaining to your union and threatening to stop paying dues unless they can show that they are serving their members better than their non-members.

By law, unions are required to provide services and benefits equally to members and non-members in a closed shop, so no, they can't serve members better than non-members. Non-members are fully covered by the collective bargaining agreement that was negotiated between the employer and the union, and the union is obligated to represent non-members in any contract grievances. Benefits that are provided to non-members include any related to the collective bargaining agreement (wages, seniority, vacations, pensions, health insurance). Non-members in a closed shop pay an agency fee in lieu of full union dues.
posted by JackFlash at 6:00 PM on December 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


Koch Brothers and ALEC behind Right To Freeload Law.

The way I look at this is that getting elected is hard and there's zero correlation between being good at getting elected and being good at being an actual productive lawmaker.

So people who are good at getting elected outsource the thought leadership and drafting of legislation to third parties. And when those third parties are also rich and are passing legislation in their own interest... this is what you get.

But, it could be worse. At least the Koch family is American.
posted by GuyZero at 6:03 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's hope this right turn is just the start of a Michigan left.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:03 PM on December 11, 2012 [12 favorites]


TWF, there appears to be a slight semantics disconnect here.

There are two classes of workers in this discussion: "union members" who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, and "non-members," who are not. In Right To Work states, "union members" are broken down into two sub-classes, those who pay dues and those who don't (more or less).

Unions are required, by law, to represent all employees covered by the collective bargaining agreement equally, regardless of whether or not the employee pays dues.
posted by workerunit at 6:06 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


At least the Koch family is American.

So was the Ed Gein family.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:08 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's hope this right turn is just the start of a Michigan left.
I see what you did there.
posted by dhens at 6:12 PM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


The point of a union is that people were banding together to work together towards a common goal.

what do you think a government is
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:14 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


My hope is that people will stay angry enough to do some good in 2014. Given the gerrymandering of our legislative districts it will be an uphill battle even with people furious. Snyder got in by persuading a lot of people that he would be a moderate. He's proven over and over that he's not. After this I doubt that any Democrat who voted for him will be fooled into doing so again.

The current Michigan legislative antics go potentially far beyond the RTW bill and included bills being passed to restrict access to abortion, drug test welfare recipients, change healthcare rules and allow guns all sorts of places you wouldn't normally. These haven't been passed yet but have a good chance of doing so. We have not had what you'd call much resembling bipartisanship in this state lately but I think it will be entirely gone after this week.
posted by leslies at 6:17 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Let's hope this right turn is just the start of a Michigan left.
I see what you did there.


But the start of a Michigan left is a slight left over a lane. The end of a Michigan left is a right turn. Just sayin'.
Also, too, Michigan lefts only happen in Southern Michigan, not the good part of Michigan. I keed, I keed. I love you fudgies.
posted by NoMich at 6:21 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


To those people who work weekends:

What days do you get off instead? Because, the "weekend" really represents the 40-hour, two-day off, 8/8/8 work week that is (was?) the norm of most American workplaces for almost the past century.

Also, does your daughter do 18 hours of hard, dangerous work on "Take Your Daughter to Work Day?"
posted by absalom at 6:25 PM on December 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Why is there a free-rider problem? Why do non-union employees get the benefits of union bargaining in the first place?

Isn't the ultimate solution here for unions to only bargain on behalf of their dues-paying members?

Seriously curious about this, because I can't for the life of me think why it oughtn't to be the case, but somehow it doesn't seem to be.
posted by valkyryn at 6:32 PM on December 11, 2012


What days do you get off instead? Because, the "weekend" really represents the 40-hour, two-day off, 8/8/8 work week that is (was?) the norm of most American workplaces for almost the past century.

I'm an exempt professional, and I don't really have days "off" except to the extent that I can accomplish what I need to in fewer than seven days a week. Since weekends are typically the days when clients, vendors, services, and others take off, those tend to be the easiest days to take off work when I am able to go a day without working. For religious reasons, I make a concerted effort to structure my workload such that I do not need to work on Sundays. But it is quite rare that I have a weekend without work.

For non-exempt employees in most U.S. jurisdictions, state and federal laws do not prevent an employer from having employees work seven days a week and for extended hours, so long as overtime and meal and rest break requirements are met.

One of the many advantages of collective bargaining is the ability of unionized employees to negotiate with their employer for work conditions more favorable than those guaranteed by state and federal law. One of the often-overlooked advantages to management is the ability of management to negotiate CBA provisions that make it easier for the employer to deal with some of the more onerous provisions of state and federal wage and hour law (e.g. the various state and federal laws that apply to non-union truck drivers).

Isn't the ultimate solution here for unions to only bargain on behalf of their dues-paying members?

Yes, except in jurisdictions and closed-shop situations where there are legal barriers to that sort of arrangement.
posted by The World Famous at 6:37 PM on December 11, 2012


I think the other big thing that doesn't get a lot of examination in these discussions is that Big Labor spends an incredible amount of money on political campaigns, most of it on candidates that many union members wouldn't actually vote for. Union money is something like 99% for the Democratic party. But assuming that the unionized workforce even approximates the American electorate, that's a whole lot of Republican union members.

These people see their union leaders supporting all these Democratic candidates, and yes, maybe those are the pro-labor candidates, but they're also predominantly lefty on social issues. So you've basically got large numbers of Republicans being forced to pay money to support Democratic candidates.

I would hope that one could imagine how this might chafe a bit.
posted by valkyryn at 6:39 PM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I really wish this discussion didn't have to be so black-and-white. It's possible to really appreciate the benefits of unions and the benefits of the battles they have won, while still thinking that people who don't belong to a union shouldn't have to pay union dues, or that people who want to belong to a union should need to make the choice to belong to said union.
posted by corb at 6:45 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


But the start of a Michigan left is a slight left over a lane. The end of a Michigan left is a right turn. Just sayin'.

Not if you're turning from a minor road onto a major one.

I believe my most recent Michigan left, onto Woodward, was a right turn followed by five lefts.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:45 PM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


So you've basically got large numbers of Republicans being forced to pay money to support Democratic candidates.

I would hope that one could imagine how this might chafe a bit.


Yeah, much better to never have the money in the first place than to see it go to Democrats.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:50 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


TWF, there appears to be a slight semantics disconnect here.

There are two classes of workers in this discussion: "union members" who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, and "non-members," who are not. In Right To Work states, "union members" are broken down into two sub-classes, those who pay dues and those who don't (more or less).

Unions are required, by law, to represent all employees covered by the collective bargaining agreement equally, regardless of whether or not the employee pays dues.


See, that's not right. If you don't pay the union, you shouldn't get union protection. That seems simple enough.

I'm not fundamentally anti-union. We all have the rights to join up collectively if we want. But I find the idea that the law allows a union to prevent people from working just because they won't join their club to be offensive. When a union demands the power to stop people from getting jobs, they have lost their way.
posted by gjc at 6:52 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Isn't the ultimate solution here for unions to only bargain on behalf of their dues-paying members?

Yes, except in jurisdictions and closed-shop situations where there are legal barriers to that sort of arrangement.


Well... that seems silly, don't it? I'm a lawyer, and I have to say that the legal environment surrounding organized labor doesn't make any damn kind of sense to me.

I mean, why can't a union represent 50% of a company's workforce and negotiate only on their behalf? Heck, why couldn't they represent 10%? The union contract could be something along the lines of "Look, we don't care what you pay the rest of your workers as long as it's not more than what we get, and we get x, y, and z."

I think a significant part of the problem that a lot of people have with collective bargaining is that it isn't actually free bargaining between parties. There are significant legal complications and consequences to unionization that seem basically arbitrary. Like, for instance, the fact that unions bargain for the entire workforce rather than only for their membership.

I'm just thinking out loud here. I'm conflicted about unions* in that I think they're an essential part of an industrial or post-industrial economy, but somehow they never really lived up to their potential.

*Though generally not about public sector unions. Do Not Want.
posted by valkyryn at 6:52 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The last time I was part of a union shop, the union was required to represent the tiny number of non-members. And the company paid everyone in the same category--basically the same, union or no.
posted by etaoin at 6:53 PM on December 11, 2012


Yeah, much better to never have the money in the first place than to see it go to Democrats.

Don't we normally make fun of single-issue voters? Only now we're complaining that these people aren't single-issue voter?

If you can't read other people's intentions charitably, go the fuck home.
posted by valkyryn at 6:54 PM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


*Though generally not about public sector unions. Do Not Want
Can you expand on this?
posted by etaoin at 6:54 PM on December 11, 2012


I'm conflicted about unions* [...] * Though generally not about public sector unions. Do Not Want.

See, I think that's one of the places where they are most necessary. When the public at large can elect new employers for you every X years, you need some kind of protection from the fickle winds of politics.
posted by gjc at 6:56 PM on December 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah, much better to never have the money in the first place than to see it go to Democrats.

Don't we normally make fun of single-issue voters?


Maybe you do, I sure don't.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:57 PM on December 11, 2012


Here are my $0.02 on Right-to-Work states, and why I wish I didn't live in one.

Down here in Tennessee, like most of the states around us, we're way ahead of y'all Yankees on the "right to work" thing. Trendsetters. That's why there's a big 'ol Nissan plant here, and a Toyota factory in Mississippi.

I worked at the Gibson guitar factory here in Memphis for several months. Gibson moved from Kalamazoo, MI to Nashville in the 80's to bust their union in Michigan. We worked 60 hour weeks in shifts that started at 5am and 6am. When I got to work, I had no idea what time I was going to get off until our supervisor walked the floor and say "shut 'er down, fellas." Every other Thursday (and once on Friday) they told us we were working Saturday. It was always mandatory, even if they didn't tell us until Friday.

Bear in mind that I liked what I was doing. But when I was hired, I was told it was an 8 to 5, Monday through Friday job, which was an outright lie. After six months of that, I took the first office job I could find. The only people who stay are people who aren't qualified to do much else and can't afford to be unemployed.

So yeah. I'm sure that was worse than a lot of places, but I'm also sure there are a lot of people on here with similar stories. I wish we had collective bargaining down here. I'd wager most manufacturing operations in the South prove that when there are no strong labor laws, companies do whatever the fuck they want to.
posted by epilnivek at 6:58 PM on December 11, 2012 [31 favorites]


I mean, maybe Republicans should be less anti-union? You can hate gay people and management at the same time, you know, if that's what the voters want.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:59 PM on December 11, 2012


RTW is government interference in the sanctity of contracts. The union and the employer have a contract. The government is stepping in and rewriting those contracts to the benefit of one party without compensation to the other. Libertarians should be on the barricades and not celebrating this at all.
posted by humanfont at 6:59 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is the Michigan "right-to-work" law just an evisceration of unions or is it the full "employment-at-will" ream-job like we have down here in the south?
posted by ob1quixote at 7:02 PM on December 11, 2012


Is there anything that prevents them from denying benefits, like representation when "grieving a termination," to employees who don't pay dues?
Snarl Furillo:
No. That's the entire point of this legislation.

WRONG!

Unions are required to defend their contracts and represent the persons who are covered by them.

Ironically, if they didn't attempt to effectively represent a free rider that person would have grounds to sue the union! Guess who would be circling like a hawk to fund that lawsuit? Anti-Union law firms and RTW organizations.

It's the same trick they pull with teachers unions. Blame AFT and NEA for poor performing teachers, then aid those same poor performers in lawsuits when they try to let them face the music.
posted by twjordan at 7:04 PM on December 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


RTW is government interference in the sanctity of contracts. The union and the employer have a contract. The government is stepping in and rewriting those contracts to the benefit of one party without compensation to the other. Libertarians should be on the barricades and not celebrating this at all.

If they knew the facts, and are actual libertarians, they probably would be.
posted by gjc at 7:04 PM on December 11, 2012


My family figured centrally in this book. People - people from my family - died for things every American takes for granted now. My father walked a picket line more than once in my childhood, and I attended more than one union meeting during good times and bad. I understand the good and the bad of unions, as well as the history. But I am not conflicted about unions. They have done - and currently do - more good than harm.

Rick Snyder spit on my ancestors' graves and in my father's face today. Fuck him.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 7:10 PM on December 11, 2012 [21 favorites]


In your hypothetical, does someone who chooses not to pay taxes get to use public services, facilities, roads, etc?
posted by The World Famous at 4:21 PM on December 11 [+] [!]


Nobody chooses not to pay taxes, unless you're the kind of person that believes that poverty is voluntary.

For the analogy to work, there has to be a population of union members that are not employed. Which, incidentally, there is: people who've been injured, unfairly terminated or are otherwise unable to work. Those people still enjoy the protection of their unions. And people who are not members of unions enjoy the benefit of laws fought for and won by unions for workers in those circumstances.

I do not have weekends off.
posted by The World Famous at 4:35 PM on December 11 [6 favorites +] [!]


Because, as you said, you're an exempt professional (a lawyer, if memory serves), which means you have a crapton of bargaining power and no need of the protection of the union. If you don't like working weekends, don't. Most workers don't have the luxury of choice that you have, and comparing your situation to theirs is insulting.
posted by klanawa at 7:14 PM on December 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I find it interesting that republicans won't raise taxes, but they're happy to pursue a policy that's been found to reduce wages by 3.2%[sorry, pdf] statewide. And that's for all workers, not just union members.
posted by mullingitover

What % of wages go to union dues in a closed shop?
posted by Aizkolari at 7:15 PM on December 11, 2012


Klanawa, I did not compare my situation to theirs. You're not following what I was saying and I'm not going to get into it again. Just try to see what I'm actually saying and I think you'll come away maybe not feeling offended after all.
posted by The World Famous at 7:19 PM on December 11, 2012


Hmm... as I recall, such a fee doesn't inherently go to the Union, you can opt out. But the idea is, you are paying a small fee for the union having negotiated stuff for you.

Is that right?
posted by gryftir at 7:25 PM on December 11, 2012


Klanawa, I did not compare my situation to theirs.
posted by The World Famous at 7:19 PM on December 11 [+] [!]


You did, implicitly. The trouble is, you always craft your comments to be just so oblique that you can hide behind the inevitable "misunderstanding." If you want to be understood, be direct. It's an irritating game you play.
posted by klanawa at 7:31 PM on December 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


Great story, epilnivik, and a succinct description of why wages will always be lower in a right to work state - managemenr has you by the balls. You don't want to work Saturday even though I just told you about it Friday? Well, in this economy I bet we can find somebody else who needs this job...

The effect of this will be felt far beyond unions. Whether you like unions or not, they have traditionally put upward pressure on wages across the board. Eviscerate unions - where does that upward pressure come from? Oh right, it doesn't exist. Management holds ALL the cards. But no worries - I'm sure they'll be "fair" to yheir workers, right?
posted by kgasmart at 7:31 PM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


There's something bigger behind the attacks on unions in recent years. It's main purpose is to destroy the Democratic Party by cutting off funding at the knees. And when middle and working class Americans go after each other in heated debates, you are effectively supporting a political scheme that is deliberately designed to make some of us think that unions are somehow bad for middle and working class Americans.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:36 PM on December 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


Hmm... as I recall, such a fee doesn't inherently go to the Union, you can opt out. But the idea is, you are paying a small fee for the union having negotiated stuff for you.

Is that right?


Last time I worked in a closed shop* (which admittedly was some time ago), the "non-member dues" I paid to the union were almost exactly the same as the union dues.
I was required to abide by pointless union regulations, my employer was prohibited from expanding my job duties and overtime was strictly rationed.
All this while I got to listen to pitch meetings from professional union marketeers and watched my involuntary contributions go to support politicians and causes I didn't believe in.

Yes, I know it was not technically a closed shop, but it might as well have been as far as I am concerned.
posted by madajb at 7:46 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


See, I think that's one of the places where they are most necessary. When the public at large can elect new employers for you every X years, you need some kind of protection from the fickle winds of politics.

You may be happy to know that the police and firefighters unions were paid off exempted from Michigan's new right to work law.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:16 PM on December 11, 2012


I was required to abide by pointless union regulations, my employer was prohibited from expanding my job duties and overtime was strictly rationed. All this while I got to listen to pitch meetings from professional union marketeers and watched my involuntary contributions go to support politicians and causes I didn't believe in.

Your fees also paid to negotiate a contract which almost certainly got you higher wages and better benefits (or, you know, benefits at all). This is even more likely if you're a woman or a person of color. When your employer decides that perhaps they want to change the terms of your employment unilaterally in conflict with the contract, the union finds the labor lawyer. It pays for you to have a grievance procedure. It gives you the right to have a witness in the room when there's the potential for being disciplined. Oh... and you (or perhaps your colleagues before you were hired) voted on the contract. You did the calculation and figured out that the wage and benefit increases offset the union dues/fees.

There's a reason they're called 'fair share fees'. On top of all that, union dues and fair share fees can only be used for purposes related to collective bargaining. Union political activities are funded by member donations, not dues/fees. You actually have a fair number of rights around enforcing this, if you have reason to believe something improper is happening, but it's much easier to pretend anti-union talking points are reality.
posted by hoyland at 8:57 PM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


valkyryn: Why is there a free-rider problem? Why do non-union employees get the benefits of union bargaining in the first place?

Because of the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, passed over the veto of Harry Truman. It requires the union to treat all workers under the contract the same, whether they are union members or not. Typically, non-members paid an agency fee to the union for the services provided. But the Right-to-Work laws eliminate agency fees, requiring the union to provide services for free. So the company just has to put all of their workers under the union contract, which requires the union to service all workers, tell all workers that they don't have to pay the union a dime and just wait for the union to be bled dry. Nothing "free-market" about that.
posted by JackFlash at 9:00 PM on December 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


What % of wages go to union dues in a closed shop?

So what people call 'closed shops' aren't actually closed shops, which are illegal in the US. But, anyway, union dues are somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1% of pay. What non-members pay is actually a 'fair share fee', which is somewhere in the vicinity of the full dues and pays for the costs of having the union, basically. In my state, the fair share fee is a minimum of 85% of the dues. I don't know offhand how it is decided or what approval is required.
posted by hoyland at 9:04 PM on December 11, 2012


Your fees also paid to negotiate a contract which almost certainly got you higher wages and better benefits (or, you know, benefits at all).

This is often what the unions claim.
It has been my experience in the course of my working life that salaries and benefits are better in non-union workplaces.
YMMV, of course, and being IT (or white collar) for most of it definitely gives me a distinct perspective.

On top of all that, union dues and fair share fees can only be used for purposes related to collective bargaining.

Uh-huh. You have more faith in workplace accounting practices than I do.
posted by madajb at 9:12 PM on December 11, 2012


corb: "It's possible to really appreciate the benefits of unions and the benefits of the battles they have won, while still thinking that people who don't belong to a union shouldn't have to pay union dues, or that people who want to belong to a union should need to make the choice to belong to said union."

As mullingitover asked you directly up-thread:

"It's simple: if you don't like the union, find a different shop that's not unionized. What's the problem?"

Workers who don't want to belong to a union and don't want to pay dues can go work at a non-union workplace. Nothing is stopping them!

If you can't come up with any reasons why this solution is insufficient to address the problems you've outlined, then you're just concern trolling with this "I really think unions are okay, but I want to starve them of financial resources to solve a non-existent problem" routine.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:14 PM on December 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is often what the unions claim.
It has been my experience in the course of my working life that salaries and benefits are better in non-union workplaces.
YMMV, of course, and being IT (or white collar) for most of it definitely gives me a distinct perspective.


It's a good thing the BLS goes out and does studies from time to time.

It's a little old but of note:
Blue-collar occupations
Earnings distribution. Average hourly earnings for the 142 union blue-collar occupations in the 1997 NCS sample were $15.07 and ranged from $7.34 to $26.81. For the 175 nonunion blue-collar occupations in the sample, average hourly earnings were $10.95, with a range of $6.47 to $21.41
The biggest disparity? Service workers by far.
Earnings distribution. Unionized service workers had average hourly earnings of $13.44, with a range of $5.61 to $26.02. Nonunion service workers averaged $7.81 per hour, with a range of $3.95 to $19.13.
But do go on.
posted by Talez at 9:30 PM on December 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


It has been my experience in the course of my working life that salaries and benefits are better in non-union workplaces.

So the town I grew up in had both union and non-union plants. Why did the non-union plants pay the same, or better, than union plants? As an incentive for the workers not to unionize. Union negotiations are a pain and they're expensive. It may be cheaper to pay employees not to unionize versus labour disruptions and the cost of negotiations. Also, workers may economically value a few dollars an hour now more than, say, a well-funded retirement plan which it will take a long time to get.

Like filibusters, you merely need the threat of a union these days. But take away that threat and things will go directly the other way.
posted by GuyZero at 9:30 PM on December 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


Uh-huh. You have more faith in workplace accounting practices than I do.

Again, are unions any more corrupt than their counterparts representing owners and management? Arguing that union officials are not angels is a false standard.
posted by GuyZero at 9:32 PM on December 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is an interesting issue and I'm enjoying the discussion.
posted by homunculus at 9:37 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Again, are unions any more corrupt than their counterparts representing owners and management? Arguing that union officials are not angels is a false standard.

I am equally annoyed when my employer makes "a donation in your name" to a cause that I don't agree with.
The difference being I am not obligated to join their PAC.
posted by madajb at 9:43 PM on December 11, 2012


Again, are unions any more corrupt than their counterparts representing owners and management? Arguing that union officials are not angels is a false standard.

But, jeezuz, is that supposed to inspire confidence in unions?
posted by 2N2222 at 9:48 PM on December 11, 2012


How about when your employer takes on massive amounts of debt and then takes ends up having to raid the employees' pension fund to operate the business? While the executives pay themselves large bonuses? Do you find that "annoying"? I wonder how those workers found the situation and how much they worried about their union reps donating to causes they may not agree with.
posted by GuyZero at 9:49 PM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


But, jeezuz, is that supposed to inspire confidence in unions?

Arguing that unions are not perfect is a false standard, that's all.
posted by GuyZero at 9:49 PM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


madajb: " The difference being I am not obligated to join their PAC."

Just as a Chick Fil-A worker who doesn't like CFA's anti-gay stance can go work for another employer, so to can someone who doesn't like their money going to unions that donate to Democrats. You're only obligated to donate to unions (who may then in turn donate to the one of our two political parties that wouldn't destroy them if given a chance) if you work for a union employer.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:54 PM on December 11, 2012


"I am equally annoyed when my employer makes "a donation in your name" to a cause that I don't agree with.
The difference being I am not obligated to join their PAC.
"

Unlike corporations, most unions allow workers a vote for their officers, all the way up to the head of the union. If the union is making donations to something you don't agree with, either run for union office or vote out whomever runs your local.
posted by klangklangston at 10:04 PM on December 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


(Also, upthread, there was speculation that this was a big deal because Dems and GOP union voters were represented proportionate to the greater population, that this meant the 99 percent union money to Dems was misrepresenting them — most union members are solid blue. However, part of what makes the actual effects subtle is that automatic withdrawal is important in terms of budgeting and even just a significant portion of funds raised. If people are responsible for taking a positive action every month, they're less likely to do it even if they agree with it. It's part of the policy research about savings accounts and pensions, but applies pretty broadly. Put briefly: People forget shit if it isn't in front of them.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:14 PM on December 11, 2012


Jon Stewart Channels Eminem To Give Chanting Advice To Michigan Union Protestors
posted by homunculus at 10:19 PM on December 11, 2012


Just as a Chick Fil-A worker who doesn't like CFA's anti-gay stance can go work for another employer, so to can someone who doesn't like their money going to unions that donate to Democrats.

True enough. In my area, however, that removes a lot of potential employers from the job hunting pool.
Not an ideal solution in my mind.
posted by madajb at 10:27 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unlike corporations, most unions allow workers a vote for their officers, all the way up to the head of the union. If the union is making donations to something you don't agree with, either run for union office or vote out whomever runs your local.

The object is not to be involved with the union in any form, not to get entangled further.
posted by madajb at 10:33 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Frankly at this point I'm not so sure about the big union conglomerates, and I'm starting to wonder if "collective bargaining" and things like required union dues are really necessary for unions to be functional or even powerful. Wasn't the point of unions that actual workers have the power by virtue of them being the ones who do the work to stand up and fight for their own rights? Why is some legally required union due a necessary part of that?

This is actually one of the core criticisms of unions and the union bureaucracy that council communists (like Anton Pannekoek) first articulated in the 1910s-1930ties. Unions, in this view, are organised no longer for the benefits of the workers, but rather for the benefit of the bureaucrats and leaders who run them, who benefit from the status quo as much as their counterparts on the other side of the bargaining table. Unions therefore have become only one more tool for the capitalists to control the workers, even if individual capitalists would rather get rid of them.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:25 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The object is not to be involved with the union in any form, not to get entangled further."

Then work someplace else.

(And no, the complaint was that the difference between a union and a corporation was that you didn't have to support the PAC. Except that you do, by working there, to roughly the same extent that a union worker has to support the union's PAC, and the bigger difference is that you have no direct say in how a corporation spends its lobbying money. Complaining that you'd have to be involved with the union in order to get it to represent your interests is like complaining that U.S. politics doesn't perfectly reflect your views, so you don't have to pay taxes.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:29 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is being compelled to be a member of a union a uniquely American thing? From a UK perspective it seems very odd that a worker would be forced to pay a union regardless of whether they actually wanted to join that union. I am a member of a union but there are plenty I wouldn't join because they are frankly crap. (I'd also note that the percentage of people in a union in the UK is more than double that of the US.)
posted by ninebelow at 12:41 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is being compelled to be a member of a union a uniquely American thing?

Here's an alternative perspective on employment unions from someone not living in the US. (For the sake of complete information, it's the United Kingdom)

I am not a member of a union. As with all people in my sector, (private security), I was offered membership of a union which covered my sector and I declined. The majority of people are not even offered union membership (depending on their employment sector), and if they want it, they have to seek it out and decide for themselves (much in the same vein as someone choosing an internet provider or an electricity supplier).

In cases of redundancy, workplace disputes, raising grievances or being dismissed, there are already robust government protections in place which all employers must adhere to and no opt-out can be contractually made.

If I choose to contest an employer's decision or believe that my employer has violated the law, I can take them to an employment tribunal, which is a governmentally-associated mediation/arbitration whose decisions are legally binding on both parties. It does not charge me a fee (unless my claim is deemed to be frivolous). The local court will even send an enforcement officer to collect the cost of my award if I win.

Though I may choose to have a union representative present in a dispute (whose main function would be to remind my employer of the niceties of employment law), there is not likely to be any significant difference in the outcome whether I have one or not. Many people in my nation perceive union membership to be primarily related to strike action (and if this seems very likely in a British worker's sector, they might consider union membership as a safeguard).

Essentially, this means that my rights as regards working hours, holidays, sick leave and personal emergencies are already enshrined in law, and are very rarely revised significantly as they might be elsewhere.

In sum, it's difficult for me to see Governor Snyder's approval of the Legislature's decision as being unfair to workers, because my own situation and perspective is so radically different. I don't claim that our system is superior/inferior to that of Michigan and other United States, but instead...I'm puzzled by people's responses because it's hard to place myself in their shoes.
posted by Owain Blackwood at 1:44 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've got to say, from an Australian context, a lot of the argument and context here is just plain weird.

Unions being able to charge non-members agency fees? What? I've always worked in places where conditions, wages, etc, are all set by the outcomes of the union led EBA process, but the idea that you could charge non-members a fee for that is, well, an absolute non-starter. And the idea that such conditions would only apply to union members would be insane, as it would just be asking for the employer to only employ non-union workers. Which would be illegal in any case.

Maybe the difference is that the last time we were seriously on strike a couple years back my non-member colleagues mostly respected that and didn't cross the picket lines. And members don't seem to begrudge non-members their 'free loading', because hey they are our colleagues and friends who are to be won over, but it's their choice and we'll respect that.

Maybe it's a philosophical thing - the union is not there just to represent the rights and interests of its members, but to advance the cause of all workers regardless. This approach doesn't seem much different from when I was a retail worker to now being an academic.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 3:24 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


RTW is government interference in the sanctity of contracts. The union and the employer have a contract. The government is stepping in and rewriting those contracts to the benefit of one party without compensation to the other. Libertarians should be on the barricades and not celebrating this at all.

From what I've seen on my feeds, libertarians are split on this. A lot of them do believe exactly that and as the substance posted above - that government intervention in the form of RTW does not undo the government intervention of the NLRA, but just adds another layer of government intervention - thus the proper thing is to work for the undoing of the NLRA rather than adding RTW. Some others, however, believe that RTW is in fact a partial undoing of the NLRA which hampered businesses in the first place.

It has been my experience in the course of my working life that salaries and benefits are better in non-union workplaces. YMMV, of course, and being IT (or white collar) for most of it definitely gives me a distinct perspective.

      It's a good thing the BLS goes out and does studies from time to time.


The thing is, those studies don't actually contradict the previous poster's argument. It is true that overall, blue-collar salaries rise with union representation. But white-collar jobs are a trickier proposition - particularly if white-collar jobs and blue-collar jobs exist within the same union. White-collar salaried employees often have bargaining power on their own that blue-collar employees do not - such as the ability to negotiate their own salary and benefits, which may be higher than what other, similar, white-collar workers receive. Unionizing tends to standardize such contracts, which is not always to individual white-collar worker benefit. Unions also tend not to deal very well with productivity and capability differences.
posted by corb at 5:07 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


If people are responsible for taking a positive action every month, they're less likely to do it even if they agree with it.

Unless I missed something, that doesn't have anything to do with RTW. Unions can still deduct their dues just like they did before, it's just that they have to have the consent of their members first. I think once consent is given it doesn't have to be given every month.

This isn't about the mechanism for collecting dues as much as the ability of unions to require dues of non-members.
posted by valkyryn at 5:21 AM on December 12, 2012


A different perspective on "right to work" that points out how unions are not affected by anti-trust law, but often maintain some of the same characteristics of monopolies.
The union is asserting “ownership” over the jobs within the sector of the economy or industry in which they acquire compulsory membership. As such, it is not only an abridgement of the non-union members’ liberty of choice in employment, it is also an infringement on the freedom of the employer’s right to enter into contracts and hire any and all workers with whom he may reach mutually agreeable terms. Indeed, it implies that the union claims control over a vital element of entrepreneurial and managerial decision-making.
posted by corb at 5:24 AM on December 12, 2012


Is the Michigan "right-to-work" law just an evisceration of unions or is it the full "employment-at-will" ream-job like we have down here in the south?

Actually, the two don't have anything to do with each other. "Employment at will" is just the default state of the employment relationship in the vast majority of US states, 43 of 50. The other option is not unionization, but employment by contract. It's possible to have an employment contract without being part of a union, and it's common for highly compensated employees like executives to have employment contracts. The same goes for professionals too, especially those that are bringing business with them.

Employment at will basically means that firing an employee--or quitting--can be done for any reason or no reason at all* without exposing either party to liability. But even in employment at will states, it is always possible to have an employment contract. Indeed, employers in such states have to be pretty careful to avoid the possibility of inadvertently creating a contract through their representations to their employees.

Unions exist just fine in employment-at-will states, because unionization is effectively removing union employees from employment at will.

*With exceptions for constitutionally and statutorily protected categories like race, gender, religion, disability, FMLA leave, etc. But even there, it isn't that there's been a contract that's been implied between the parties, simply that limitations have been put on employers' ability to fire people for particular reasons. Arbitrary firing is still possible, and "We didn't work well together" is still a valid reason for letting someone go. But unless there's some describable reason, one starts to suspect that it's for a bad reason, but it's still not a contract issue.
posted by valkyryn at 5:32 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Why is there a free-rider problem? Why do non-union employees get the benefits of union bargaining in the first place?

Because of the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, passed over the veto of Harry Truman. . . . Nothing "free-market" about that.


Nope. I've been doing some reading on the subject, and damn, son, Repeal Taft-Hartley. That shit's just no good.

Here's what I'd like to see:

Unions don't come into a workplace by having an election by a particular employer's particular employees. They come into a workplace when a single employee joins the union. As more and more employees in a shop join the union, the union gets more and more clout to negotiate with the employer. We might still need a law protecting employees that join unions from being summarily fired, and I'd be okay with that. joining a union, as such, ought to be protected. Whether or not a person is a union member ought also to be a category upon which employers should not be able to refuse employment, just like gender.

Not sure I'd support a law prohibiting scabs, or from employers firing employees that quit. If an employee wants to negotiate for better wages and salaries, they need to be willing to put their jobs on the line. Part of effective union organizing will be to enroll sufficient numbers of employees to cut down on the ability of employers to fill their labor needs this way. No giving one side an unfair advantage by statute. Once the union gets a contract, prohibiting the firing of striking workers can be a feature of the contract, but it shouldn't be implied by law.

Then the union only negotiates on behalf of its members. No free-riders. To the extent that the union is successful at negotiating better wages and benefits, more employees will join. Any employee is free to sign up at any time, and as soon as they do, the employer will have to pay them union rates under the terms of the union contract. Employees would not be forced to join the union, but any of them could, and as soon as they do, union dues come straight out of their paycheck.

I think this would yield stronger, more effective unions, but do it in a way that would be a lot more palatable to employers. It would also require unions to be more responsive to the needs of their members and might eliminate some of the stereotypical problems with union shops, e.g., job banks, rubber rooms, seniority-based compensation, last in first out, etc. If Taft-Hartley is the only thing preventing this kind of arrangement, then fuck that shit.
posted by valkyryn at 5:44 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


>Though generally not about public sector unions. Do Not Want.

Can you expand on this?


I think public sector unions represent an enormous conflict of interest. Public sector wages are significantly set by statute, and unions spend a lot of money ensuring that their preferred political candidates get into office. So public sector unions can exert pressure both on the employee side, through collective bargaining and the threat of strikes, and the employer side, by influencing if not outright controlling elected officials. All at the expense of the taxpayer, independent of any reliance upon the quality of services rendered.

This isn't necessarily a huge problem at the federal level, but it's a real problem at the state level and an enormous problem on the municipal level. Repeal Taft-Hartley, but outlaw public-sector unions.
posted by valkyryn at 5:49 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am a fan of unions in general, and honor their history. My own personal experience as a union member isn't good--I was a member of the local teachers' union, thus of course also of the Michigan and National Education Associations, so I got to see first-hand, in my mailbox, how much of their money and energy they devote to telling members how to vote to protect the unions' interests. In addition, I was a member by virtue of being a part-time faculty member at a community college; the part-timers were added to the union after I'd been working there 8 or 9 years. This seemed like a good thing, but the way it played out was that, every time a contract needed to be negotiated, the union would ask for benefits for part-timers, like paid sick time or pro-rated insurance, and then drop those requests at the bargaining table. It seemed like the major benefit of part-timers being in the union was that the union got to use us as a bargaining chip, giving them things to concede in negotiations without hitting the full-timers. And the dues were not an insignificant cut in an already very low wage.

I'm not as knowledgeable about this as I could be, but I wonder whether the problem isn't so much the unions themselves as that the economic and political climate in which they could operate effectively no longer exists.
posted by not that girl at 6:03 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hello, I'm David McGahan: "I've got to say, from an Australian context, a lot of the argument and context here is just plain weird."

How does the Aussie government's involvement in adjudicating labor disputes compare to the UK's system Owain Blackwood described above? Because, as an American who supports unions, I would gladly accept right-to-work laws (dismantling the "non-members pay dues" situation you're confused by) if we had a robust government body that could make legally binding decisions to resolve workplace disputes. Of course, this kind of system would be decried as creeping European socialism by the very same folks who favor these right-to-work laws, so the imperfect system we have (where union workplaces in non-RTW states are able to collect dues from non-members) is the best we can do.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:09 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think public sector unions represent an enormous conflict of interest. Public sector wages are significantly set by statute, and unions spend a lot of money ensuring that their preferred political candidates get into office. So public sector unions can exert pressure both on the employee side, through collective bargaining and the threat of strikes, and the employer side, by influencing if not outright controlling elected officials.

This is contrary to my experience. WI unions were outspent 8-1 by organizations like "Chamber of Commerce" and "WI Manufacturers Committee". The politicians that were elected all but gutted unions in the state and forced a pay cut on all state workers. Then they gave huge tax breaks to the businesses.

Conflict of interest ? Apparently, that only applies to proles.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:15 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Guess I'm a little late to this discussion, but it always disheartens me to see people judge the union CONCEPT on the basis of of anecdotal, or even cross-sectional (i.e. many examples at one moment in time) observations of unions.

The fact is that we have a creaky, unenforced, and deeply problematic set of laws that enshrine and empower unions as legal entities in the U.S. Some of the problems people observe with unions come from out-of-date, or contradictory aspects of the laws, which were basically designed for firms of totally different structures producing totally different things from what we see today; some other beefs come from how the government's neglect since the time of Reagan has hurt the overall system's functioning.

But to use any of that as a basis to take a swipe against labor - against the fundamental right of workers to organize to level the playing field against capital - seems inappropriate. Yes, the laws have problems, and yes, for various reasons of survival, myopia, and even general American political history, SOME unions have been fairly indisputably on the wrong side of SOME issues (Vietnam, anyone?) But to to use any of that to justify some fundamental reduction in workers' bargaining power is, to my mind, flat wrong.

So, my addition to the discussion is this: workers should always have the right to organize. Private, public, whatever sector. Because we live under a system called CAPITALISM, in which all corporate actors, whether private or public, this industry or that, are trying to produce a surplus - i.e., extract more value out of the production process today than was extracted yesterday (and yes, this definitely applies to governments.) This will always need a check. Setting aside particulars, we can always consider a "union," speaking in the broadest possible manner, as somehow embodying that check. Right now, unions are a weak, battered version of this check, but they're almost all we've got, other than very messy, particularistic litigation. National legislation seems even less savory a route at this point. This would suggest that we focus out energies on thinking about how to make it easier for workers to organize, and easier for unions and corporations to bargain transparently under the auspices of a disinterested arbiter (and yes, it is possible for one branch of the government to regulate relations between unions and another part of the government.) You focus on teamsters, or teachers, or whatever, and I think that's a distraction from this very important, absolutely fundamental issue for democracy.
posted by LoneWolfMcQuade at 7:18 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


corb: "The thing is, those studies don't actually contradict the previous poster's argument... But white-collar jobs are a trickier proposition - particularly if white-collar jobs and blue-collar jobs exist within the same union."

See Table 4 of this study, which shows that (a) union membership is much higher among blue-collar occupations (17.8%) than white collar occupations (10.3%), and (b) the wage premium for non-union white-collar workers is only 0.2% against a union wage premium of 3.5% for the much larger population of blue collar workers. Across all workers, this means there is a positive wage premium associated with union membership, and even if we limit the discussion to white collar occupations, the spread is vanishingly small.

Note also that, in both blue and white collar occupations, the wage spread has dwindled as union membership has declined.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:29 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is contrary to my experience

What happened there is an exception, not the rule, and represents a rolling-back of decades of practice, both in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Saying that what happened this year is characteristic of your entire experience is disingenuous in the extreme.

I mean, seriously, the connections between organized labor and organized crime are well known and long-standing. Arrests in New York last year and this year. You identify me any city which has a notoriously corrupt political machine in operation, and I'll bet you money that local unions form a significant part of said machinery.
posted by valkyryn at 7:33 AM on December 12, 2012


Valkyrn, that's an interesting proposition, but isn't the problem that if the company negotiates with the union only for the union members, the company is still likely to give the non union members the same benefits and salary. What's the incentive for the company to do otherwise? Because by doing that, fewer people will join the union, and then eventually the union will just fade away.

What's the union's clout in negotiating if they only represent some of the people? Striking? That won't help if half the company's employees are already non union. Companies will work pretty hard to not have to deal with their unions in a lot of cases.

Here's what I'd like to see (and have, in some employers):

Unions and companies that actually work together. Where the Union actually listens to the employees and says to the Company, "hey, there's a problem on the line with XYZ, let's fix it" or "we'd rather have a high-deductible health insurance plan and some more money in the pension fund" or "let's put 1% of that 3% raise towards retiree healthcare". Where the company can say, legitimately "hey, our profits were up 20% this year; we're going to give all the union and non-union folks the following bonus, and we want you to know that the rest of the profit is going to go towards upgrading XYZ and funding the pension plan" or "wow, we really took a hit when we lost that customer, can you guys help us come up with a way to save 10% on salaries? We're also going to cut 10% of operating expenses and we don't want to lay people off."

Sure, that's a pipe dream. The problem is, for a lot of companies, the union/employer relationship is already so adversarial. Because the unions insist on taking every termination to arbitration, even when the termination was appropriate, because they are afraid of getting sued. Because the companies either don't share the wealth, or don't explain their choices, or put too much emphasis on the bottom line while ignoring morale and employee issues. And the unions don't really represent the interests of the employees - they represent the interests of the unions, and the people who work for the unions, instead of its members.

I don't know how you fix any of this. There are companies, and unions, that are doing it right. In my experience, as I'm sure will shock no one, these companies and unions tend to be the smaller one. Maybe employer/employee relationships just don't scale well. I'm not sure.

I
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:33 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


corb: "A different perspective on "right to work" that points out how unions are not affected by anti-trust law, but often maintain some of the same characteristics of monopolies. "

The government regularly exempts entities as diverse as utility companies, newspaper publishers, agricultural cooperatives, and financial institutions from anti-trust law if doing so advances a state interest. In the case of unions, the state interest is the preservation of labor rights. Without anti-trust exemption, labor actions like strikes and boycotts would run afoul of U.S. law. The unions would have no bargaining power, and would disappear. Enforcing labor rights would then require the government to get more hands-on with enforcement of labor standards, a la binding arbitration and mediation of disputes that occurs in other countries, which sounds like something libertarians would oppose.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:42 AM on December 12, 2012


isn't the problem that if the company negotiates with the union only for the union members, the company is still likely to give the non union members the same benefits and salary. What's the incentive for the company to do otherwise? Because by doing that, fewer people will join the union, and then eventually the union will just fade away.

Why is that a problem? Aren't unions ultimately a necessary evil? Don't we want employers to pay good wages and benefits voluntarily? And if they were, would we even need unions?

But as you point out, the relationship between employers and employees is both ongoing and subject to constant change and development, so getting a single union contract just the one time doesn't fix that relationship in stone forever. Indeed, I think a big part of the problem with unionization today is that it tries to do this, with multi-year contracts that give employers no flexibility to deal with changing business situations, changing employee needs, and changing employee performance. So I don't see this as a real risk.

What's the union's clout in negotiating if they only represent some of the people? Striking? That won't help if half the company's employees are already non union.

Sure it will. Half of a company's employees failing to show up for work is a pretty big freaking deal, particularly for labor-intensive workplaces like retail, manufacturing, and construction. You're right that ten employees out of a thousand wouldn't really have all that much clout. But a hundred? Two hundred? Five hundred? Yeah, that's a problem. Even assuming the employer were to permitted to fire their entire unionized workforce, replacing half of any workforce of reasonable size is a huge problem. Place would probably shut down for at least a few days, possibly weeks. Many businesses can't afford that kind of work stoppage, much less more than one. And again, the goal would be for unions to recruit members both from the employed and unemployed populations, so that the number of available scabs would go way down.

And the unions don't really represent the interests of the employees - they represent the interests of the unions, and the people who work for the unions, instead of its members.

I would think that right-to-work legislation would actually be a step in the right direction towards fixing that. By making unions actually have to attract and retain members rather than being able to essentially tax employee salaries, they'll have to actually represent union workers in the way that union workers want to be represented, not in the way that most benefits union bosses.

I think the idea that opposing unions is always opposing workers is faulty. These days there can be distinct alienation between unions and their own members, with union managers and bosses acting in ways that serve their own interests rather than the interests of the union workers.
posted by valkyryn at 7:42 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think public sector unions represent an enormous conflict of interest.

valkyryn, I agree with you that the conflict of interest is troubling, I don't think that banning public-sector unions is the answer. I'd rather they they be allowed to exist and collectively bargain on behalf of their members, but not be allowed to make or direct any political donations or advocacy.
posted by Aizkolari at 7:52 AM on December 12, 2012


valkyryn: " Why is that a problem? Aren't unions ultimately a necessary evil? Don't we want employers to pay good wages and benefits voluntarily? And if they were, would we even need unions?"

Let's assume arguendo that the United States has an enduring interest in preserving a set of worker rights that both sides of this debate can agree on, because that's the conceit behind these "I support the goals of unions, but not unions per se" comments.

The spectrum of possible solutions to this problem go from 100% government intervention in every labor dispute, with the government deciding how to settle contract disputes, to a total hands-off approach where the government merely sets up the framework for unions to operate, and the unions take care of the details by representing the workers and giving the workers power to take labor actions as necessary.

Where would you be on this spectrum?

Note that I've left out a solution involving free markets because there is none. Free markets, as history shows, lead to capital exploiting its built-in advantage over labor, which results in the erosion of protections against child labor exploitation, a race to the bottom on wages, workers dealing with unsafe workplaces, being forced to work long hours, etc.

So, if not unions, then what?
posted by tonycpsu at 7:54 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had another potential idea. Why don't unions invest more in their workers' companies? Ultimately, the problem here isn't between management and workers, it's between owners and workers. Management is just acting on the orders of shareholders, after all.

But workers earn money, and some of that is in the form of retirement benefits. Why isn't it standard practice for unions to roll a significant part of that back into stock in their workers' companies? That would give them a vote at the shareholder meeting.

We'd still have the problem of the union representing the interests of the union, not its workers, but this could at least potentially eliminate some of the alienation between capital and labor.

Something along those lines is going on right now at GM and Chrysler, where the UAW benefit funds actually own huge chunks of the company. Just about 40% of GM and over half of Chrysler, I think. But I think the problem with that deal is that it's seen by many observers as a fat payoff by the Obama administration to the UAW, i.e., rather than having the auto companies go through a normal bankruptcy, like any other entity, the administration intervened on the union's behalf. That may or may not work, and it remains to be seen whether this top-down kind of intervention is any good.

But the organic, gradual acquisition of shares by union benefit funds, whose ultimate duty is to the integrity of the fund and thus to both current and previous employees, seems to be a logical, healthy way for things to work. I mean, the UAW VEBA has something like $45 billion under management. GM's current market cap is only $40 billion. I guess I just don't understand why this sort of thing isn't more common. Irrational exuberance? Americans' insane belief in the natural appreciation of equity? The bizarre idea that we own stock for a reason other than to have an ownership interest in corporations? I dunno.

Bottom line: isn't the ultimate solution to solving the conflict between capital and labor to make sure that labor has capital, and for labor to use that capital to serve its own interests?

And as I think about it, this is also part of the reason why I don't like public-sector unions. Corporations exist ultimately to do business, to generate revenue and profit, and they're owned by people, who control those corporations for their own benefit. Who said people are can be changed. But governments aren't owned by anyone, and control of government by a single person or group of people is generally viewed as a bad thing. Employee ownership of a corporation seems like the most natural thing in the world. Kind of like a form of attenuated self-employment. But civil servant ownership of government sounds like feudalism.
posted by valkyryn at 7:59 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


See Table 4 of this study, which shows that (a) union membership is much higher among blue-collar occupations (17.8%) than white collar occupations (10.3%), and (b) the wage premium for non-union white-collar workers is only 0.2% against a union wage premium of 3.5% for the much larger population of blue collar workers.

Interesting, but it also doesn't break down precisely how they're defining blue collar and white collar - I'd be very interested to see that. Another point, as well: if union dues are approximately 1%, and the wage increase is less than 1%, wouldn't that mean that white collar individuals are actually losing by that bargain? It also doesn't break down college-educated white-collar individuals as a separate class, only breaking up college and high school in the broad population. I'd be genuinely interested in better and better-broken-down studies, but I don't know that we have many - the plight of the college-educated white-collar worker isn't usually one that fuels studies.
posted by corb at 8:03 AM on December 12, 2012


Why is there a free-rider problem?

Because of the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, passed over the veto of Harry Truman.

This doesn't make a huge amount of sense to me. Taft-Hartley did away with "Closed Shops" (i.e. where you had to be a member of the union to work there) and replaced them with Union Shops, where you have to join the union after being hired (union membership can't be a precondition of hiring). That's at the Federal level. RTW then goes further and does away with Union Shops as well, via saying that you can't be forced to join the union either if you don't want to.

When a Union moves to get "exclusive representation" (i.e. the ability to negotiate in a binding manner on behalf of employees) it does so for a "bargaining unit." The minimum size of a bargaining unit is three employees. The NRLB states specifically in its guidebook that:
the unit appropriate for the purposes of collective bargaining shall be the employer unit, craft unit, plant unit, or subdivision thereof.
So there is nothing that states that a bargaining unit has to be all employees at a particular employer, or even at a particular plant. There is also a 3-point test for determining the appropriateness of a bargaining unit, which takes into account previous history of collective bargaining and the desires of the employees concerned. (The third point is "the extent to which the employees are organized" but this can't be used as the defining characteristic.)

Employers sometimes try to get lots of employees added to the bargaining unit as a way of making life difficult for a union, and the NRLB has been pretty consistent (recently) in slapping down that sort of behavior, leading to the rise of so-called micro unions.*

At least to me, the "micro union" looks a lot like a traditional skills-based craft union. And I wonder if it isn't suggestive that structural changes in the US economy over the past several decades (mainly, outsourcing and the death of labor-intensive manufacturing) shouldn't lead to a reconsideration of the old craft vs. industrial debate which ended back in 1955, at the height of unskilled mass production in the US, in favor of industrial unions.

With a craft-centric "micro union" there's much less of a free-rider problem. If you're only organizing a handful of workers it becomes a lot easier to demonstrate the benefits of the union to them. And if enough of them hate unions to the point where they're not willing to pay dues, and free-riding becomes an apparent problem, then you can just back off and look at another group, and maybe come back to them when it's more apparent.

Frankly I think the fight over micro unions is more important to the majority of the workforce than RTW legislation is, but luckily it's one that labor actually seems to be winning.

* Anyone who isn't sold on the benefits of craft-centered micro unions should take a look at this lulzy RedState screed against them (an embarrassingly thin wrapper around someone else's propaganda video), which pretty much paints them as the Devil incarnate. And Lindsay Graham is against them, so you know they've got to be good.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:05 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


valkyryn: "Bottom line: isn't the ultimate solution to solving the conflict between capital and labor to make sure that labor has capital, and for labor to use that capital to serve its own interests? "

It's farce to even pretend that even the most powerful unions in the world could amass enough ownership of the company's stock to be able to change policy. The UAW ownership stake of the auto companies was, as you said, only reached through government intervention, and could have never happened via normal acquisition of stock if the companies were healthy. Furthermore, the stake in Chrysler at least has dwindled from 63% to 31% since the Fiat acquisition.

The other problem is that, if this were to happen, the unions wouldn't be unions anymore. Unions represent workers, not owners. Once the unions are owners, they start thinking like owners, and labor rights become a drag on the bottom line.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:07 AM on December 12, 2012


corb: "Interesting, but it also doesn't break down precisely how they're defining blue collar and white collar - I'd be very interested to see that."

It doesn't matter. Given the numbers involved, white collar would have to represent some 95% or more of the total unionized population in order for the union vs. non-union spread to be zero.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:16 AM on December 12, 2012


valkyryn: "Public sector wages are significantly set by statute, and unions spend a lot of money ensuring that their preferred political candidates get into office. So public sector unions can exert pressure both on the employee side, through collective bargaining and the threat of strikes, and the employer side, by influencing if not outright controlling elected officials. All at the expense of the taxpayer, independent of any reliance upon the quality of services rendered."

If the public sector unions were such a political force, you would think they would earn more, but you would be wrong.

The "undue influence" of public sector unions in the political process is a paper tiger created by people who oppose unions in general, public or private.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:36 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's farce to even pretend that even the most powerful unions in the world could amass enough ownership of the company's stock to be able to change policy.

Why? Again, if the UAW VEBA had wanted, it could have purchased GM outright. But they wouldn't actually need to do that. Even a 10 or 20% stake would probably enable them to successfully nominate someone to the board.

Take Wal-Mart, for example. They employ something like 2 million people in the US. If half of their workforce were unionized, that'd be a million people. If they each bought $1,000 in WMT stock every year, that's a billion dollars a year. The WMT market cap is about $250 billion. Currently, the largest shareholder that isn't a member of the Walton family is Vanguard, the investment company, and they own 2.69% of the company, about $6.6 billion. So in seven years, the union could be the single largest institutional shareholder. Less if they roll dividends back into buying more stock.

But WMT is probably a bad example, because half of the company is still owned by the Walton family, making other people's interests a bit hard to represent. Let's look at Target instead. TGT is held almost entirely by the general public, including financial services and investment companies. Target employs about 350,000 people. Using the same assumptions we used above, a unionized Target workforce could invest $175 million a year into TGT stock. TGT's market cap is just about $40 billion. It'd take about twenty-three years to acquire 10% of the company, but the second-largest shareholder is Vanguard, with about 5% of the company. They'd be a major player in ten years.

Or what about UPS? They employ 400,000 people. Current market cap of $70 billion, so a more highly valued company. Again, same figures as our WMT assumption, the union can invest $200 million a year. They hit the 10% mark at thirty-five years, which is a bit longer. 5% at seventeen or so.

I think these are pretty conservative estimates. If a union were serious about this they'd stick half of their members benefits back into their employers' stock. It wouldn't make a difference right away. But it would make a difference after a decade. After a generation, the company could easily be majority owned by its employees, current and former.

Once the unions are owners, they start thinking like owners, and labor rights become a drag on the bottom line.

That is an issue. But what if the union gave workers direct control over their shares rather than letting the union vote for them?
posted by valkyryn at 8:37 AM on December 12, 2012


Then work someplace else.

I have in the past. I've turned down jobs that required union payments. But many people don't have that option.

Complaining that you'd have to be involved with the union in order to get it to represent your interests is like complaining that U.S. politics doesn't perfectly reflect your views, so you don't have to pay taxes.)

Again, you miss the point. I _don't want_ a union to claim to represent my interests. I don't want their interference in my job prospects. I don't want them negotiating contracts in my name that are detrimental to me as a taxpayer.
In short, I want nothing to do with them.

Freedom to not associate seems just as fundamental as freedom to associate.
posted by madajb at 8:41 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chrysler does, in fact, have a single UAW member on its board. Do you really think one out of nine members of any board of directors can change policy? Perhaps he can use his powers of persuasion, but on matters relating to labor rights, it's 8-1 against. The interests of capital and labor have always been, are, and will always be in tension. Pretending anything but a majority ownership stake could change these dynamics is fantasy, and once they did amass a majority stake, they would no longer represent labor interests.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:42 AM on December 12, 2012


"Again, you miss the point. I _don't want_ a union to claim to represent my interests. I don't want their interference in my job prospects. I don't want them negotiating contracts in my name that are detrimental to me as a taxpayer.
In short, I want nothing to do with them.

Freedom to not associate seems just as fundamental as freedom to associate.
"

I didn't miss your point. I'm pointing out that you already have that freedom in your libertarian (don't take the job), and that this freedom is a silly one to argue for when it comes to the real world. Plenty of people don't want any government to represent their interests. They are invited to either move or work to make their government more closely align with their values. And in a union shop, a majority of your coworkers have voted to have a union represent their interests.
posted by klangklangston at 8:52 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


It doesn't matter. Given the numbers involved, white collar would have to represent some 95% or more of the total unionized population in order for the union vs. non-union spread to be zero.

Except that it does matter when considering whether unions are universally beneficial to all employees. The answer may very well be that, for many white-collar jobs, they are not beneficial - and if that is the case, white-collar individuals have no incentive to support unions against their interest, and may have an entirely valid reason not to want to pay union dues.

For example: in a union that represents a shop where 80% of the employees are working low-wage jobs, and 5% are working high-wage jobs, do they have more of an incentive to negotiate for higher wages for the low-wage earners or for the high-wage ones, given that they must only hold office by a majority?
posted by corb at 8:56 AM on December 12, 2012


"Once the unions are owners, they start thinking like owners, and labor rights become a drag on the bottom line."

I disagree with this pretty strenuously, both from a political and a real-world standpoint. First, owners and labor don't have to be opposed, and labor being owners does give them a much better shot at being able to effect the changes necessary in a business to represent labor's interests. Second, where we've seen some of the most durable growth — even with benefits that American companies would regard as insane — has been in Germany, where union leaders are explicitly part of the boards and partners with the business in growing.

Fundamentally, the interests of labor and capital can be aligned: Both want profit.

I will say that one of the reasons why more unions don't take ownership stakes (at least in the form of stock) comes from the way that stock options are often structured to give the employees little to no say in the actual administration of said stock (usually by issuing employees a different class of stock), leading to massive screwings where that equity is raided first on the way down. It's something that I've seen in parts suppliers again and again in Michigan, and the biggest contemporary example is probably the way that the Tribune media company leveraged pensions and "ownership" in order to let management take on unsustainable debt and saddle the workers with it.
posted by klangklangston at 8:58 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


corb: "Except that it does matter when considering whether unions are universally beneficial to all employees."

That was not the original question.

The studies Talez and I cited were to show that, on average, union membership helps workers get better wages. You dissented to point out that this isn't the case with white collar workers. I supplied data showing that the spread between union and non-union white collar workers is virtually nonexistent at 0.2%. Now you're trying to say that the burden of proof is on union supporters to show that unions are universally beneficial to all employees across all job categories everywhere. Who has made that claim?

It's true that, in general, strong unions do improve rights and compensation for most workers, even non union-members, by creating workplaces that are fairer to workers, and thus more attractive to prospective employees. The point is that they definitely help most of their members, and they definitely help many non-members. But nobody has said they're a panacea for everyone.

This is a clear case of you trying to move the goalposts, something you've done in several other threads when your assertions are proven false. Please don't do that.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:08 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I didn't miss your point. I'm pointing out that you already have that freedom in your libertarian (don't take the job), and that this freedom is a silly one to argue for when it comes to the real world.

Glad to see the economy is doing so well over there in your real world.

Over here in my neck of the woods, where job opportunities are scarce, freedom to turn down a paying job really only exists on paper.

And in a union shop, a majority of your coworkers have voted to have a union represent their interests.


I wonder how true this is. Most of the union places around here have been union forever. Not many people around who would have been present for the initial vote.
The only union vote I can recall in recent memory is (I think) the graduate students at the University.
posted by madajb at 9:11 AM on December 12, 2012


klangklangston: "I disagree with this pretty strenuously, both from a political and a real-world standpoint. First, owners and labor don't have to be opposed, and labor being owners does give them a much better shot at being able to effect the changes necessary in a business to represent labor's interests. Second, where we've seen some of the most durable growth — even with benefits that American companies would regard as insane — has been in Germany, where union leaders are explicitly part of the boards and partners with the business in growing. "

Yeah, that kind of thing works in Germany where the government itself guarantees certain rights. My statement that capital and labor are in natural tension is limited to the U.S. system where the legal framework and corporate governance structures are stacked against labor.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:11 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Glad to see the economy is doing so well over there in your real world."

It's doing well enough that we don't have to scrap labor laws to cater to the yelping fantods of anti-union partisans. (I mean, what else? "Glad to see that the economy is doing so well in your real world that you outlaw child labor.")

"Over here in my neck of the woods, where job opportunities are scarce, freedom to turn down a paying job really only exists on paper."

So… someone who doesn't want to be a part of a union (a union nihilist) has the exact same level of freedom as someone who doesn't want to work for a company that makes political donations they disagree with? Which do you think is more prevalent?

"I wonder how true this is. Most of the union places around here have been union forever. Not many people around who would have been present for the initial vote.
The only union vote I can recall in recent memory is (I think) the graduate students at the University.
"

Union members can vote to dissolve a union at any time with a vote of over 50 percent. That has been the law since the National Labor Rights Act of the 1930s.
posted by klangklangston at 9:17 AM on December 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


If they each bought $1,000 in WMT stock every year, that's a billion dollars a year

Not to nitpick, but I think part of the problem is that Wal-Mart, Target, et.al. low income workers don't have a grand to put together to invest.

If they did, then the union would be working well (or at least better) for them, so why should they have to invest their wage increase which would only benefit the people gaming stock performance?

It's an otherwise reasonable long term plan to gain greater control over the fruits of one's labor, I'm just pointing out the catch-22 there.

As it is in the market (generally) short term stock profit grows because wages shrink.
So if Joe Retail kicks his life savings into his company's stock he'll get diminishing returns on his investment, plus contribute to the stock market program that's cutting his wages to maximize short term profits.

It'd be flushing money down the toilet for the illusion of control.

I'm not an economist, but I do sit down with a financial planner (from a friend of mine who has a sick-ton amount of money). I try to make socially conscious investments. I don't make much, but I'd sleep better at night (if I slept). But that's all 2nd hand info, + my interpretation, so I'm open to being disabused.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:27 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


The studies Talez and I cited were to show that, on average, union membership helps workers get better wages. You dissented to point out that this isn't the case with white collar workers. I supplied data showing that the spread between union and non-union white collar workers is virtually nonexistent at 0.2%. Now you're trying to say that the burden of proof is on union supporters to show that unions are universally beneficial to all employees across all job categories everywhere. Who has made that claim?

Many above (such as mullingitover, andreaazure, dpx.mfx, facetious, and others) have made the claim that having non-union employees, who are not required to pay dues, is free-riding - as they benefit from the presence of a union, while not having to pay the costs of it. I am pointing out that there are some individuals who do not, in fact, benefit from the presence of a union - and thus, who would have incentive to be freed from being forced to pay dues, while still not being "free riders."

If the "free-rider" problem is not a real problem for those individuals, then, what is the point and/or moral defensibility of forcing them to pay union dues/fees for a union which does not benefit them?
posted by corb at 9:31 AM on December 12, 2012


So… someone who doesn't want to be a part of a union (a union nihilist) has the exact same level of freedom as someone who doesn't want to work for a company that makes political donations they disagree with? Which do you think is more prevalent?

Only one of those groups takes a percentage out of my paycheck.
(Though, I don't know. IS there a state where involuntary contributions to corporate PACs is legal and practiced? Wouldn't be completely surprised if there were)

Union members can vote to dissolve a union at any time with a vote of over 50 percent. That has been the law since the National Labor Rights Act of the 1930s.

I am aware of the law. I'm simply idly curious as to whether any of the original union voters are still around. I suspect not that many, since a lot of the companies were probably unionized in the early part of the last century.
posted by madajb at 9:35 AM on December 12, 2012


The moral defensibility is that the worker always has a choice to work at a non-union workplace. Complaints about the fact that this is an undue inconvenience on that worker assume that the rights of the majority of workers who do benefit from the union aren't as important as the rights of the small minority who (a) feel they would do better without a union but (b) don't want to have to leave to find another job. No law or set of regulations is going to make 100% of people happy, and, again, nobody is saying unions can or should try to make everyone happy.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:38 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Only one of those groups takes a percentage out of my paycheck.

Your employer makes a profit/loss of exactly zero?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:04 AM on December 12, 2012


Not to nitpick, but I think part of the problem is that Wal-Mart, Target, et.al. low income workers don't have a grand to put together to invest.

Yes, well, the problem there is that current laws have made it almost impossible for those workforces to unionize, even marginally.

But in one sense, I think that's a different sort of issue. As has been discussed above, if people have to pay for something voluntarily, fewer of them will do it than if it's just deducted out of their paychecks. This is why the IRS does payroll deduction. And it's been proven that when employers automatically enroll their employees in retirement savings plans, enrollment rates skyrocket.

I also think that it's just wrong. Most Americans get a tax refund every year. That's money they're essentially loaning to the government for free, and it can easily be hundreds of dollars or more, even for retail employees. An employer--or union--could easily say "Look, we're going to do you a solid here. We're going to do the following by default: adjust your withholdings so that if your only income is this job you'll owe zero taxes, and move all of the money you'd have paid in excess taxes to a retirement savings plan." Boom. Done. That, right there, is a revenue-neutral way of giving most Americans savings they didn't know they had without hurting their monthly budgets or costing the government much in the way of money.

I can't for the life of me figure why the IRS would automatically and deliberately deduct far more money from most people's paychecks than they're going to owe. Seems downright oppressive.
posted by valkyryn at 10:06 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


You do realize there's a box on your W-4 where you can change how much is withheld, right? And a worksheet on page 2 where you can estimate the tax you'll owe to make sure you put the right number in that box?

Much in the way the right has defined "tyranny" down to "asking kids to eat more broccoli", it seems "oppression" now includes "the IRS failing to accommodate those who don't bother to read or understand their W-4 form."
posted by tonycpsu at 10:31 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


You do realize there's a box on your W-4 where you can change how much is withheld, right?

Sure, but most people don't, and even if they do know it, they almost never do it. This is a pretty arcane concept, and most Americans aren't confident enough in their understanding of the tax code to do this. Hell, I'm a lawyer, and I just do what my accountant tells me.

And again, I thought that we didn't like government practices which unnecessarily burden unsophisticated people. Now we make fun of them for not understanding tax forms? Instead of complaining that the government deliberately takes more money than it is entitled to, essentially extracting an interest-free loan from the least sophisticated taxpayers? And we're okay with that?

Geez.
posted by valkyryn at 10:34 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


The moral defensibility is that the worker always has a choice to work at a non-union workplace.

Would this moral defensibility also apply to workers who want unions, that they always have a choice to work at a union workplace, and so it's OK to fine or fire union supporters?
posted by corb at 10:35 AM on December 12, 2012


Just as a Chick Fil-A worker who doesn't like CFA's anti-gay stance can go work for another employer, so to can someone who doesn't like their money going to unions that donate to Democrats.

True enough. In my area, however, that removes a lot of potential employers from the job hunting pool.
Not an ideal solution in my mind.


Not an ideal solution to you? My current pay limits the potential lifestyle I could have if I made more money for my skill set. Conservatives often remind me that if I am not happy with my lifestyle and want more money then I am free to spend more money to learn more skills or find a better paying job (as if you can "find" a job the way you find a lost frisbee). If options for these solutions are limited in my area they tell me I "am free to move."

None of these are ideal solutions in my mind, yet conservatives remind me that nothing is guaranteed in life and that life is hard and unfair. Fine.

In this vein - If you don't want anything to do with unions, find a non-union job. If that limits the available jobs in your area a) tough cookies, life isn't fair b) you are free to move.
posted by jnnla at 10:35 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Again, you miss the point. I _don't want_ a union to claim to represent my interests. I don't want their interference in my job prospects. I don't want them negotiating contracts in my name that are detrimental to me as a taxpayer.
In short, I want nothing to do with them.


Life is unfair.

IS there a state where involuntary contributions to corporate PACs is legal and practiced?

It's illegal in principle, but unenforceable in practice.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:41 AM on December 12, 2012


jnnla: " None of these are ideal solutions in my mind, yet conservatives remind me that nothing is guaranteed in life and that life is hard and unfair. Fine."

This, this, this! The "party of personal responsibility" would have you believe that the solution to abusive labor practices is not the dreaded government intervention, but free market competition, so that workers who are being exploited can go work somewhere else. But when the tyranny of mandatory payment of union dues occurs, suddenly going to work for someone else is an undue hardship, and one that must be avoided by enacting a state law that interferes with corporations' rights to determine how they pay their employees.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:48 AM on December 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah, to Valkyryn and others who are showing various manifestations of the "let people vote with their feet" approach - that's just not how it works. (I see now that tonycpsu has partly beaten me to this point - I'll agree and extend.) These are big systems. Unless individuals see the balance potentially tipping in their direction - especially when their employment is on the line - they won't act. This is why it makes sense to legally bind people into institutions that are supposed to represent labor - because if it's not legally binding and protected, employers can pick such institutions apart unremittingly until nothing is left!

Therefore, if you have a problem with how unions represent people, take it at the level of internal dynamics of unions - not at the blunt level of how unions come to exist and what it means for a workplace to be represented by one. These arguments against unions that keep popping up are really boiling down to a basic libertarian approach, reasoning that if representation is imperfect, the only reasonable thing to do is to tear down the layers of representation. I'm sorry, it just doesn't work like that. Society is complicated and these institutions are necessary from a very basic, pragmatic perspective, and until you can demonstrate that globalized nations of hundreds of millions of people operating interconnectedly in a world populated by billions can do so without these aggregations of rules and authority, you've got to work with the mindset of what rules and institutions minimize the abuse of the many by a powerful few.

Also, the stock activism is, unfortunately, a canard that unions have been unsuccessfuly trying to leverage for years. The short version of the story is that they can't do a whole lot with this money because it is their fiduciary responsibility to manage it conservatively; i.e., not use them in quixotic hostile takeovers that the market would surely punish severely. In that sense, we have a clear asymmetry where corporations have more power to abuse than the unions.
posted by LoneWolfMcQuade at 10:58 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


valkyryn: Actually, the two don't have anything to do with each other. "Employment at will" is just the default state of the employment relationship in the vast majority of US states, 43 of 50.
Thanks, valkyryn. That's actually far worse than I thought it was.

Being better informed now, that brings me back to Owain Blackwood writing, In sum, it's difficult for me to see Governor Snyder's approval of the Legislature's decision as being unfair to workers, because my own situation and perspective is so radically different.

In 43 out of 50 states in the U.S. workers have none of the protections you outlined, except for a notional protection against discrimination on the basis of race, sex, creed, or national origin that is in practice difficult to enforce. "Right-to-work" is "anti-worker" precisely because it is anti-union in the sense that in most states the only protection against unfair labor practices workers can get is through a union.

I was also gratified to see the repeal of Taft-Hartley brought up. I started to write something along the same lines, but didn't because I believe it to be a political impossibility.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:23 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I started to write something along the same lines, but didn't because I believe it to be a political impossibility.
posted by ob1
quixote at 11:23 AM on December 12 [+] [!]


Eponyronic?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:33 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Again, you miss the point. I _don't want_ a union to claim to represent my interests. I don't want their interference in my job prospects. I don't want them negotiating contracts in my name that are detrimental to me as a taxpayer.
In short, I want nothing to do with them.

Freedom to not associate seems just as fundamental as freedom to associate.


You have no idea how much I wish I could help you with this. I wish you worked for my Michigan employer and opted out of the union (which you're allowed to do) and opted out of paying fees (which the new Michigan law allows you to do).

But most important, I wish you were 100% free not to receive one single protection and benefit of my union contract and 100% free to work out the best individual deal you could with our employers.

If that happened, you would instantly:
--get a 60% salary cut in your full-time position, and never again be guaranteed to have full-time hours but to be offered 1/4, 1/2, or 3/4 part-time status based on the employers' needs, which change approximately every 4 months. Oh, and you would *never* again work or be paid or have any insurance coverage from May-August
--pay $hundreds more for considerably shittier health insurance
--go from having your employer pay $100+ a month of its own money into your pension account to getting $0 ever
--make considerably less for overtime
--have zero job security
--have pretty much no recourse against unfair working conditions
and oh, just so many other really delightful things that I'm sure you'd enjoy heartily

But hey, you'd be saving a few bucks in union fees, so what's not to like?

How do I know this would happen? Because that's how my employer treats its non-unionized "temporary" workers, which is what it would instantly consider you if you had no union protection.

Unfortunately, even though you are now 100% free to pay $0 in fees to my union, my union is still required by law to give you every protection and benefit it gives to its members rather than leave you to the tender mercies of management. What a shame.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:04 PM on December 12, 2012 [13 favorites]


Rustic Etruscan: I started to write something along the same lines, but didn't because I believe it to be a political impossibility.
posted by ob1
quixote at 11:23 AM on December 12 [+] [!]


Eponyronic?
I blame sixswitch for introducing me to Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Specifically the political machinations described therein.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:07 PM on December 12, 2012


Life is unfair.

It is, but if I lived in Michigan, it just got slightly more fair.
posted by madajb at 12:25 PM on December 12, 2012


How do I know this would happen? Because that's how my employer treats its non-unionized "temporary" workers, which is what it would instantly consider you if you had no union protection.

So, your point is that there are some employment situations where choosing to be in a union is advantageous?
I don't disagree.
posted by madajb at 12:33 PM on December 12, 2012


The Amazing Hypocrisy of the "Right To Work"
But what's not murky is the absurd hypocrisy that has to go into making the case for right-to-work legislation.

The way this works is that if there's a labor union at a given business establishment that's bargaining for some higher pay or benefits or better work-rules or whatever it's rapidly going to find that there's a free rider problem. Everyone in the relevant class of workers gets the benefits whether or not they join the union. So something the union is often going to want to bargain for is some kind of rule stating that everyone hired in the relevant class has to join the union, or has to pay dues to the union, or something else along those lines.

Now naturally an employer's not going to want to agree to that. But he's not going to want to agree to higher pay or more vacation days either. That's why it's a negotiation. A right-to-work law is a law banning employers from making that concession.

The impact, obviously, is to make it hard to form strong unions in a given jurisdiction and thus make it a more business-friendly jurisdiction. But note that this same trick works across the board. You could just ban pay raises in general. Any one firm, after all, faces a dilemma. On the one hand it would be more profitable to pay people less. On the other hand, it's also unprofitable to have everyone quit to go work for some other higher-paying company. So a law against pay raises would make everyone more profitable, spurring crazy business investment and job creation. Except nobody does that because it would be (a) insane and (b) obviously unfair. And yet the proponents of right-to-work laws are generally exactly the people most inclined to stand up for freedom of contract under other circumstances.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:47 PM on December 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think the confusion about how union labor agreements work and how they affect all workers in a workplace exhibited in this thread reflects the confusion in the public's collective mind. The campaign for "right to work" laws knowingly exploits this phenomenon to get people to vote for weakening unions. They even get pro-union people to vote for it, because not all of them really understand the implications of the laws. Most of the time it's as simple as "Hey, everyone has a right to to work, so I'd support a law that guarantees it." Unions have suffered from poorly funded messaging campaigns coupled with a somewhat complex message compared to the simplicity of the phrase "right to work" and the economic power of Americans for Prosperity, ALEC and the like.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:41 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


When Right-To-Work Is Wrong and Un-Libertarian, J.D. Tuccille, Reason Hit & Run, 12 December 2012
posted by ob1quixote at 2:06 PM on December 12, 2012


You Hate 'Right to Work' Laws More Than You Know. Here's Why [Caution: Racist Images], Mark Ames, NSFWCORP, 12 December 2012
posted by ob1quixote at 2:12 PM on December 12, 2012


Mental Wimp: "They even get pro-union people to vote for it, because not all of them really understand the implications of the laws."

Reading this, and ob1quixote's subsequent link, it occurs to me that the complexity of the U.S. labor situation mirrors the complexity of our healthcare system. Just as it's hard to sell the public on why unions are important, it was hard to sell the Affordable Care Act to the public, because we rugged individualists can't possibly have nice things like universal single-payer healthcare for all. Instead, we Rube Goldberg the shit out of it, in the hopes that we can make it work without looking too much like ZOMGSOCIALISM.

So the military gets cradle-to-grave NHS-style single-payer, single provider care, because apparently socialized medicine is so horrible that we only subject our military heroes to it. The poor get single-payer insurance and private provider care. The elderly single-payer insurance and private provider care, with a special "Advantage" carve-out so that some of that single-payer money can be funneled through private insurers who merely skim off the top without adding value. Everyone not in those categories got bupkis until the ACA passed, and even with the ACA in full effect, we'll have neither universal coverage nor anything resembling single-payer insurance.

Meanwhile, as much as I appreciate the role that unions play, I can't help but feel like they're an inefficient and confusing way to ensure workers are treated in accordance with our laws. The force stopping employers from abusing their employees should be the the threat of fines, license revocations, and imprisonment for violating strictly-enforced labor laws, not the threat of a work stoppage*.

This enforcement would come with a price tag, but it would get rid of the complexity and confusion that lets voters get snookered into thinking unions aren't advance their interests because they never see the benefits until they lose them.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:20 PM on December 12, 2012


"It is, but if I lived in Michigan, it just got slightly more fair."

To a tiny minority, and vastly more unfair to a large majority.

I mean, why not just write, "Got mine, fuck you?"
posted by klangklangston at 2:26 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why people equate a lack of restrictions with fairness. Anarchy is fair I suppose in that sense, but I wouldn't want to live in one.

More rules do not make the world more fair, but neither do fewer rules.
posted by GuyZero at 2:30 PM on December 12, 2012


Life is unfair.

madajb: It is, but if I lived in Michigan, it just got slightly more fair.

Not if you are a person who values protections for workers or has realized that "compassionate business" is an oxymoron.
posted by jnnla at 2:50 PM on December 12, 2012


Meanwhile, as much as I appreciate the role that unions play, I can't help but feel like they're an inefficient and confusing way to ensure workers are treated in accordance with our laws.

I think you miss the point that the laws are there because unions pushed for them.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:55 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think you miss the point that the laws are there because unions pushed for them.

No, I totally get that, but as we've seen, it's quite easy for politicians to weaken or destroy the right to organize and bargain collectively, which the non-union public is generally "meh" on. On the other hand, I don't think you'd have much success as a politician if you ran on reducing wages, making workplaces less safe, or forcing people to people work longer hours with less vacation. Once these things are written into law, it's hard to roll them back, so why not have the state be the entity that has labor's back at the negotiating table? No more "unelected union bosses" -- if you don't like it, complain to your congressman. No more worrying about undue political influence. No more worrying about states that can simply neutralize the power of virtually all labor laws by getting rid of the entities that protect the workers in those states.

* I realize that Rick Snyder didn't run on right-to-work, but many politicians do.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:07 PM on December 12, 2012


To expand on my point a bit: back in the day, it was easier for politicians to create and defend a legal framework for unions to operate in than it was to get labor laws enacted, but now it seems like it's easier to retain those laws than it is to keep the unions from being neutered.

I'm not suggesting that we give in to those who are trying to kill unions, but it might be time to supplement the union efforts with an effort to beef up the Department of Labor's own powers to ensure worker rights are protected. Just as we need a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect consumers from the banks, we need a Department of Labor that doesn't outsource its enforcement to entities that can be rendered powerless with the stroke of a governor's pen.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:15 PM on December 12, 2012


Meanwhile, as much as I appreciate the role that unions play, I can't help but feel like they're an inefficient and confusing way to ensure workers are treated in accordance with our laws.

In my experience dealing with employment law issues from wage and hour to discrimination, harassment, and just about everything else under the sun, unions are a far more efficient and far less confusing way to ensure workers are treated in accordance with the law than are the non-union alternatives. Unions have plenty of faults. They have plenty of inefficiencies. But when it comes to being sure an employee is treated in accordance with labor and employment laws, unions are the most effective thing I've seen in the real world. If someone has an example of something that works better, I'd like to see it. The NLRB has recently started to bring actions even as to non-union workers, which is certainly causing employers to open their eyes a bit wider. But the NLRB would not exist if it were not for unions.

Maybe think of it this way: Let's say you're a truck driver in a big metropolitan area in a California, making only local delivery and pick-up trips. And let's say you're not within the federal motor carrier exemption, such that California's wage and hour laws apply to you, including meal, rest break, overtime, waiting time, and other provisions.

What's more likely to improve your working conditions - yours personally - if your employer doesn't understand the statutes, doesn't have things set up quite right, and as a result violates your rights under those statutes - a union with a detailed CBA and stewards and union officers with boots on the ground who understand the requirements, act as liaisons between you and the company, and work with management to ensure compliance, or waiting for someone to file a wage and hour class action that will tie up management's assets in litigation costs and eventually end either in class certification being defeated or in a class settlement that puts a small check in your hand for your trouble, a few years after the suit was filed?

Interestingly enough, there are actually quite a few benefits to management in a union shop, as well, including, but not limited to, resolution of employee disputes through union channels before the employees file "all-in" litigation, LMRA preemption of contract claims, and a host of other things. None of that endears management to the idea of organized labor, obviously. Nevertheless, the idea that unions are not the best way to ensure compliance with the law only raises the question of whether there is, in the real world, a better way.
posted by The World Famous at 3:30 PM on December 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


No, I totally get that,...

You seem to be arguing from the point of view that all is settled and laws are fixed and in place to ensure that all workplaces are felicitous and fair to all the workers. This has never been the case and nor is it likely to become the case as long as it is left only to the political process. Further, we have seen in more than one state that politicians can and do roll back worker protections. I'm the last person to argue that unions are perfect solutions to workers' problems, but it seems to me that they still can and should play a vital role. This is only possible if the laws meant to weaken them are fought and rolled back.

One further thought is that the deterioration in wages for many economic sectors is due, in part, to the weakening of union power. Obviously, globalization has played some role as well, but without pushback for commodified labor pay by union organizing, this trend will only worsen.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:37 PM on December 12, 2012


We need a Department of Labor that doesn't outsource its enforcement to entities that can be rendered powerless with the stroke of a governor's pen.

Easier said than done. When Obama became President in 2008, there were three vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board. Without a quorum, the board can do nothing. It cannot make work rules and it cannot even process union complaints of unfair labor practices. Companies are free to do anything they like to bust unions illegally with no threat of repercussions.

Republicans continually filibustered Obama's appointments to the board to prevent a quorum until he was forced to make recess appointments. Recess appointments expire at the end of a Congressional session so the board is below quorum repeatedly.

Last year when the board tried to approve new rules to speed up unionization votes, a Republican member of the board threatened to resign, eliminating the quorum necessary to pass the rules, unless the rules were changed.

The Republicans are at war with American labor. Folks need to decide whose side they want to be on and stop nitpicking about some unicorn they would rather have.
posted by JackFlash at 3:46 PM on December 12, 2012 [12 favorites]


Michigan's Koch-financed cabal of lame duck Republicans are also rushing to pass anti-abortion measures and anti-Sharia law bills before they no longer have the votes to do so.

Cowards, liars, thieves and madmen, waiting until after an election to show their true colors.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:54 PM on December 12, 2012


except for a notional protection against discrimination on the basis of race, sex, creed, or national origin that is in practice difficult to enforce

The reason that these appear difficult to enforce is twofold. First, most employees that get fired or have any adverse employment action taken against them obviously have a grievance about their employer. How better to get back than to complain that they've been discriminated against? I mean, I got fired but that person didn't, so clearly that's discriminatory, right? We see all sorts of bullshit complaints from people that don't understand the concept of discrimination at all.

Second, the fact that one belongs to a protected class does not mean that one is immune from adverse action for legitimate reasons. To reference two employment cases I dealt with at my old firm, yes, you're a black woman, and yes, you got fired when that white man didn't, but being a black woman does not permit you to get away with rampant absenteeism. Or yes, you have a disability, and yes, the employer is required to provide "reasonable accommodation" for your disability, but if you call in sick two or three days a week for six months running, this is maybe starting to look like a bit more than "reasonable accommodation" and more like you're completely unable to perform the requirements of your position. In short, if the employer has a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for doing what they're doing, anti-discrimination laws aren't going to help you much.

The thing of it is, that these sorts of lawsuits and claims are such a pain that employers typically do everything they can to avoid them, or failing that, to win them easily. This is why you see documentation everywhere. It's really hard to win that discrimination claim when your employer has documentation that you've been consistently absent, or received multiple admonitions about the quality of your work, etc. It's to the point that with any corporation of any significant size--say over a hundred-odd employees--discrimination of this sort is far, far less prevalent than it was a generation ago. There are still issues, and the merits of that Walmart discrimination case have yet to be ruled upon, but the corporate culture of Mad Men is gone forever.

I will say that this sort of thing happens a lot more in small businesses though. They're far more likely to be run in a sort of seat-of-the-pants manner, i.e., unprofessionally, and you see small business owners trying all sorts of shit that more sophisticated companies wouldn't dream of doing.
posted by valkyryn at 3:55 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean, why not just write, "Got mine, fuck you?"

Well, if that's what you got out of our discussion, there isn't much point in continuing it.
posted by madajb at 4:31 PM on December 12, 2012


Not if you are a person who values protections for workers or has realized that "compassionate business" is an oxymoron.

And yet, I do believe workers need strong on the job protection.
Huh, strange that.
posted by madajb at 4:36 PM on December 12, 2012


" It's to the point that with any corporation of any significant size--say over a hundred-odd employees--discrimination of this sort is far, far less prevalent than it was a generation ago. There are still issues, and the merits of that Walmart discrimination case have yet to be ruled upon, but the corporate culture of Mad Men is gone forever.

I will say that this sort of thing happens a lot more in small businesses though. They're far more likely to be run in a sort of seat-of-the-pants manner, i.e., unprofessionally, and you see small business owners trying all sorts of shit that more sophisticated companies wouldn't dream of doing.
"

I think there are a couple of things worth saying here, just from my perspective as an employee:

I think you're totally right about a decline in the level of workplace discrimination broadly, though I've seen some pretty amazingly bullshit instances in places that could have been litigated but weren't (for a variety of reasons). In some of those instances (mostly academic settings), unions really helped the process tremendously in a way that wouldn't have been possible without them. I do think that the law is an incredibly blunt instrument in terms of actually getting results, and that a lot of the reluctance over suing goes both ways. Only idiot employers don't account for the risk of getting sued; only idiot employees look forward to suing. There are many instances where the actual stakes just don't cover the amount that would have to be invested to be made whole (and in those cases, often the employer benefits more from that by screwing a lot of people for a little each, and even class action suits are pretty hard to bring).

I do also think there are often a lot of subtle bits of discrimination that will always be too small for the law to effectively deal with, but that have material impacts on people's lives.

I'll also say that I've been in some jobs where other people have sued and won, and sometimes I've felt terrible for the employer because one shitty manager can do a tremendous amount of damage very quickly, and even paying off a settlement to make something go away can still be a pretty unjust outcome in terms of the whole system.

Though I've got to say that the more terrible the employer, the more risk of that happening — one job, soon after I'd already left, a manager and an employee were drinking outside of work and the manager demanded a blowjob in exchange for not firing the woman. The woman slapped him, and he slapped her back. She quit and sued both the manager and the workplace. I think that this was one instance where the employer got screwed, though frankly, they were terrible enough in general that they've lost about five class-action suits for violating labor laws in the last five years and had to send out checks to former employees. I tend to think that if they hadn't based their employment model on high turnover, they'd have had an easier time not promoting assholes. I also tend to think that the lower on the socio-economic scale you are, the more this sort of stuff happens — grocery store managers can be just as unprofessional as small business yahoos unencumbered by corporate bureaucracy, in that they just don't see their employees as anything but interchangeable chits.

(Unfortunately, grocery stores are one of the worst unions in terms of making younger people aware of their value — seniority rules are often so skewed that no one coming up the ranks has any hope of getting a decent shake.)
posted by klangklangston at 4:57 PM on December 12, 2012


Mental Wimp: "I'm the last person to argue that unions are perfect solutions to workers' problems, but it seems to me that they still can and should play a vital role."

I agree that unions should continue to play a vital role, and I would continue efforts to push back against these right-to-work laws. The asterisk in my original comment on this after the phrase "work stoppage" was meant to point to a footnote stating that I would still strongly support the existing unions and their right to organize, collectively bargain, and engage in boycotts/stoppages, but that these should not be the only enforcement mechanism that employers should fear. In my haste to respond, I forgot to add this footnote, so my comment probably looks more hostile to unions than I meant it to.

To be clear: I'm not advocating any sort of shift away from supporting unions -- I'm advocating fighting on multiple fronts, because these anti-union governors seem to be winning in the states mostly because the public doesn't understand what unions do for them. With union membership in decline, I think it's time to have a mechanism in place to guarantee these rights at the federal level.

The state has an interest in promoting worker's rights, but the mechanisms it uses to protect those rights are opaque to most people who don't belong to unions. It just so happens that the presence of union workplaces causes the working conditions in non-labor workplaces to improve, but what happens when the union workplaces disappear?

JackFlash: " Republicans continually filibustered Obama's appointments to the board to prevent a quorum until he was forced to make recess appointments. Recess appointments expire at the end of a Congressional session so the board is below quorum repeatedly."

Just because Republicans are filibustering NLRB nominees and would obviously raise hell at the idea of the feds getting more involved in labor enforcement doesn't mean we should give up on improving enforcement at the federal level. Labor protections should not be subject to the whims of state governors or vary based on the strength or weakness of the particular unions.
posted by tonycpsu at 4:59 PM on December 12, 2012


Do We Really Have to Condemn the Union Protestor Who Punched Fox News Comedian Steven Crowder?
posted by homunculus at 5:17 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fox News Comedian
But you repeat yourself...
posted by tonycpsu at 5:29 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


homunculus: Do We Really Have to Condemn the Union Protestor Who Punched Fox News Comedian Steven Crowder?
Given that no one was killed and the only injury appears to be a tiny cut on Crowder's head—and his pride it seems—to my mind the protest was an exemplar of civility and decorum. Gov. Snyder, et al., are lucky they didn't burn the statehouse to the ground.

I also note that while the AFP people claim three dudes in ski masks came in and cut the supports for their tent, some purported witnesses tell a different tale.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:01 PM on December 12, 2012


Given that no one was killed and the only injury appears to be a tiny cut on Crowder's head—and his pride it seems—to my mind the protest was an exemplar of civility and decorum. Gov. Snyder, et al., are lucky they didn't burn the statehouse to the ground.

Are you kidding me? Civility and decorum is a punch in the face? Assault is assault regardless of how much damage the person took afterwards, and it is not cool just because someone gets in the middle of an argument.

The rule of thumb should be, if you wouldn't take it from the opposition, don't take it from your own side.
posted by corb at 7:48 PM on December 12, 2012


Moving aside from the "Who was bigger asshole? Asshole or asshole who punched him?" idiocy and onto more substantive idiocy:

Law likely won't effect public employees because rush to pass precluded actually reading the fucking law.
posted by klangklangston at 7:58 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


This state is basically fucked.

A friend put it well tonight when she posted online: "So, a quick recap... Unions=effectively gone, gays & women get health care at the moral whim of a total stranger or system, people can bring concealed weapons into schools and daycares, public education might become corporately managed, gay couples= not allowed to be parents or foster parents, and an "emergency manager" system that was officially defeated in a legal vote is going to pass again tomorrow. Did I miss anything?

Is this really Michigan? This is a totally different Michigan than the one I lived in a couple weeks ago."

posted by HuronBob at 8:48 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is being compelled to be a member of a union a uniquely American thing?

Having read on, I've discovered why this is so confusing to someone outside of the US: it's nothing to do with unions, it is the outrageous employment laws.
posted by ninebelow at 4:55 AM on December 13, 2012


corb: “The rule of thumb should be, if you wouldn't take it from the opposition, don't take it from your own side.”

Precisely. The whole point is that Crowder seems to have "taken it" from his own side in this case – that is, that the whole thing was staged. Which makes me wonder if it counts as assault, actually, if he was in on it and asked for it to happen.
posted by koeselitz at 8:06 AM on December 13, 2012


I was reading that "The right-to-work law in Michigan was an acknowledgment that the state now has no choice to become a low-skill, low-wage haven."
I'm wondering how the market treats intellectual capital.

Because it seems (as a layman) it treats it like shit. Apart from homosexual discrimination and the like (I've seen immensely talented people cast aside because of it) there seems this giant waste of the investment in expertise.
We allow people to come overseas to our universities and learn, then chuck them out - whereupon they go back to their native country and compete against us.

We refuse to retain people and when we do we refuse to pay them well enough to not have them split, or go off to start their own thing (and compete against us).

I'm speaking in generalities here, so it's a bit slippery, but it looks like we genuinely think - yeah, if they don't like it, workers can go somewhere else.
But we fail to consider training and skill a capital investment.
...perhaps because we don't really care about the end product as long as we can market it well enough people will buy it?
I dunno.

I read that an excellent teacher can goose the lifetime earnings of a given student by $250K
Over time and given the volume of students, that's a hell of an increase in tax revenue alone, not to mention innovation. And yet teachers are one of the groups who get f'ed in the A on a regular basis - and I think it is in part because we disregard creativity and collaboration in favor of uniformity and obedience.

Which is really a throwback. An industrial age work-house profit model that needs to be scrapped.
Back when machines were dumb, just pipes and gears, perhaps it worked then ('worked' being relative given the massive ecological damage of that era), but now, there's no question we're losing massive amounts of potential without even counting the upfront investment in training we already made (as a society alone, 12th grade, variety of subject) or the ongoing benefit of taking observational data directly from thinking humans on the work it is we're having them do.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:47 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: " Precisely. The whole point is that Crowder seems to have "taken it" from his own side in this case – that is, that the whole thing was staged. Which makes me wonder if it counts as assault, actually, if he was in on it and asked for it to happen."

Yeah, they've done this before.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:02 AM on December 13, 2012


Yes, the Michigan House just passed a new version of the Emergency Manager Bill that the voters rejected. They attached an appropriations bill to this one so it couldn't be overturned as well.

Basically, the Michigan Republicans hate democracy. No hyperbole.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:31 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Republican lawmaker's proposal exempted husband from Michigan `right to work' law (via)
State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R) on Monday offered an amendment that would have added corrections officers like her husband, Brad, to the list of types of jobs not covered by the anti-union law. Police and firefighters had already been exempted from the legislation.

"When we talk about the brave women in police and fire we need to remember people in corrections," Lyon explained earlier this week, according to MLive.com. "These guys work in conditions that we can't even begin to imagine."

"It's not financial. It's philosophy. I am saying we need to treat our corrections officers that way we treat our police men and women and firefighter men and women."

Democrats, however, claimed that the proposal was an example of Republican hypocrisy.

"Why would she want to exempt her husband if this is such a great bill?" state House Democratic Caucus spokesperson Katie Carey asked. "We were kind of disgusted with it... We were just kind of disappointed that she would offer this amendment at the same time lauding this legislation."
posted by tonycpsu at 12:15 PM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, no, don't punch FOX news people or any people during protests. It's not the right thing to do on a PR level as the punch ends up overshadowing the hole point of the protest. You are just feeding the noise machine.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:37 PM on December 13, 2012


corb: Are you kidding me? Civility and decorum is a punch in the face?
I think you're missing my point. The legislature and Governor of Michigan are treading dangerously close to the line over which Michiganders faith in the democratic process will be permanently damaged. I am worried that if that happens—if the people of Michigan are backed far enough into a corner—a minor scuffle and a bump on the head will seem like an ice cream social.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:04 PM on December 13, 2012


New Villian Emerges In AFP Tent-Gate: Guy Fawkes-Masked ‘Radical Anarchists’, Evan McMorris-Santoro, Talking Points Memo, 13 December, 2012
A spokesperson for conservative group Americans For Prosperity told TPM on Thursday the tent’s collapse this week during protests outside the state capitol may have been instigated not by union protesters — some of whom were “helping us” after the tent collapse, she said — but rather by “radical anarchists” wearing Guy Fawkes masks and coming from the Occupy movement.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:18 PM on December 13, 2012


Michigan Police Scratch Their Heads At Fox Contributor's Post-Punch Media Tour
"There is video footage of him being assaulted. We don't know who the suspect is, but we could do a several month investigation and find the suspect," Inspector Gene Adamczyk, spokesperson for the state police, told TPM on Thursday. "But if Mr. Crowder is not going to prosecute, we have not gained anything, we've wasted resources."

So far Crowder has not sought out police help after he was hit. Adamczyk pointed out he's instead turned the video into a national conservative media tour.

"I saw Mr. Crowder's interview on Sean Hannity and he wants to have an MMA-sanctioned fight with this individual," he said. Crowder told Hannity that if the suspect doesn't come forward for the MMA fight (which he said would be held for charity), Crowder would "press charges."

Adamczyk did not sound impressed by the plan.

"You can't leverage the law for personal gain," he said. "Either you're the victim, or you're not. So if he's the victim of an assault, and he wants to file a complaint, we will definitely investigate it."
posted by tonycpsu at 2:50 PM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


: ""You can't leverage the law for personal gain,""

I lol'd
posted by mullingitover at 10:02 PM on December 13, 2012


Fox News chucklehead under scrutiny for creative editing of ‘union thug’ video
posted by homunculus at 4:24 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Opinions vary on the gravity of the Steven Crowder situation.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:21 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older When Michael Woodford discovered a staggering leve...  |  Girls: Fact + Fiction Gallery... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments